Catalytic converter thefts are on the rise in B.C. and they're expensive | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Catalytic converter thefts are on the rise in B.C. and they're expensive

A screenshot from the security video released by Coquitlam RCMP.
Image Credit: YOUTUBE / Coquitlam RCMP
September 11, 2020 - 7:30 AM

The lure of precious metals is going to cost Kelowna’s Anastasia Hensel money she can’t afford to spend after she was hit by a catalytic converter thief.

And she’s not the only Southern Interior resident being targeted in what, as she said in a Facebook posting, is "apparently a thing now."

She had her vehicle parked outside Bear Creek Provincial Park a couple of weeks ago and discovered, when she went to drive away, that someone had cut out a piece of her exhaust pipe.

“It wasn't actually the catalytic converter that they stole, it was actually the flex pipe,” she told iNFOnews.ca. “I'm 100 per cent positive that they thought they were stealing the catalytic converter but must have been newbies and didn't know what they were doing.”

It’s left her facing a $500 deductible bill on her ICBC insurance policy when she has the time to get it fixed.

Last month, two people were arrested in Lytton in a brazen mid-afternoon attempt to steal a catalytic converter from a vehicle parked on that town’s Main Street.

READ MORE: RCMP catch suspects in attempted catalytic converter theft in Lytton

While it’s not a big thing in cities like Kamloops and Kelowna just yet, ICBC statistics show that catalytic converter thefts are on the rise.

Claims filed to ICBC fluctuate over the past five years, with a low of 90 for all of B.C. in 2017. That jumped to 594 in 2019 and there have been 627 up until Sept. 4 this year.

Almost one third of those were in Surrey with 194 so far this year. There have only been three in Kamloops, Kelowna, West Kelowna and Vernon this year. No data was provided for Penticton or smaller communities in the region.

Two claims were filed in West Kelowna and cost ICBC $10,473. The other one was in Kamloops and cost $1,803.

So far this year, catalytic converter thefts have cost ICBC $1.3 million, or an average of almost $2,100 each. That’s lower than the $1.4 million paid last year but far above the $357,000 in 2017.

All this for a car part that could fetch as little as $5 as scrap metal. On the other hand, some can be worth $600 or more.

There are a couple of reasons this is happening.

READ MORE: Three Surrey men charged with stealing catalytic converters

One is that they are relatively easy to steal, especially from trucks and higher vehicles where a thief can slip under with a battery powered saw and cut through the exhaust pipes in a matter of minutes.

The other reason is that catalytic converters contain precious metals such as palladium, platinum and rhodium that convert toxic gases from the engine into more harmless gases.

Palladium can cost more than gold.

“Palladium is in the platinum family of metals, and jewelry connoisseurs know it as an alternative to gold or platinum,” states an article on Fortune.com from February, 2019. “Its catalytic properties also make it hugely valuable to the automotive industry.”

At that time, palladium was selling for about $1,400 an ounce with gold at $1,300 and platinum at $800.

Some catalytic converters use as little as two grams of platinum-group metals, which includes rhodium.

Others can yield as much as 30 grams, which is just shy of one troy ounce (31.1 grams).

So, knowing what’s in a converter makes a huge difference in its value.

A catalytic converter out of a 1990 versus a 1992 Honda Civic, for example, could be worth $20 or $200, Colin Lockwood, General Manager of ABC Recycling in Kelowna, told iNFOnews.ca.

READ MORE: iN VIDEO: Coquitlam thieves captured on video stealing catalytic converter

He gets most of his catalytic converters from “end-of-life” vehicles that are towed into his yard by local towing companies. He sells them to a Quebec company that’s one of the few in North America that actually takes them apart and sorts out the different types of metals.

The catalytic converters don’t often show up under someone’s arm just walking through his door. If they did, he may not buy them.

“We have to report any non-steel products we purchase so every person that comes in here, say with a catalytic converter or copper or brass, their ID is scanned prior to them getting paid by us and the material is listed and we have to report that information through the RCMP,” Lockwood said.

Certainly, if the catalytic converter is disassembled he will not buy it because he has no way to determine its value.

One of the problems with this kind of theft is there’s not a lot vehicle owners can do to prevent it other than to park inside a secure garage.

Some vehicles can have security devices installed on their frames or their car alarms may be adjustable to respond to vibration. People can also engrave their Vehicle Identification Number onto the catalytic converter.

For Hensel, the theft of a worthless pipe off her vehicle comes at a time when she’s just returning to work from maternity leave and her fiancé has been laid off since the COVID-19 pandemic started so “money isn't exactly flowing out of our pockets at this point,” she posted.

Image Credit: Wikimediacommons

She also had some choice words for the would-be thief.

“I hope whoever did this feels good about it. I'd love for you to come forward and make it right, although I know that's a slim chance. Oh and by the way, what you stole wasn't actually the catalytic converter. It was a useless (and worthless) piece of pipe. Maybe if you put as much energy into a job you wouldn't have to steal stuff.”

On the other hand, it hasn’t been all bad news for her.

“We've had a few really nice offers from people wanting to help out, which definitely makes you feel better about humanity after something crappy happens to you,” she said.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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