Six catalytic converters have been reported stolen in Vernon in less than three weeks, police said Thursday.
“Suffice to say, this is an increase in this type of theft and it is an issue we are aware of,” Vernon North Okanagan RCMP media officer Const. Tania Finn said April 29.
In January, the Kelowna Boys and Girls Club was hit thrice by “cat thieves,” and all three times the vehicle was parked out front of the non-profit’s building.
The six reports of “cat thieves” in Vernon between April 8th and 26th isn’t all that surprising, according to Bryan Gast, the national director of the investigative services division of the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC).
“The theft of these catalytic converters isn’t new,” he said. “What is new is that the prices of the precious metals have gone up significantly.”
The exhaust emission control device, which reduces toxic gases and pollutants from the exhaust by converting it into something less potent through an oxidation and reduction reaction, is comprised of precious metals: rhodium, palladium and platinum.
The value of these metals has skyrocketed over the past five years. For instance, rhodium used to sell for around $640 an ounce in 2016 to more than $20,000.
“It’s worth more than gold,” Gast said — about 10 times as much.
But the people stealing them aren’t earning that. Gast said a catalytic converter would likely only go for a few hundred dollars at a scrapyard.
Part of the issue is that there is nothing in place that identifies the part as stolen such as a registration or tracking number, but that’s something the IBC is working on, Gast said.
Catalytic converter thefts are covered under comprehensive insurance, and the average claim amount for a converter theft in 2020 was $2,117. ICBC has received approximately 1,025 such claims throughout B.C. from 2020, according to data from March 2021.
In the meantime, Gast said it’s important to educate vehicle owners that this is an ongoing issue from coast-to-coast Canadawide and in the United States.
“These aren’t just happening in driveways,” Gast said. “This is happening in community parking lots and at car dealerships.”
But there are extra measures vehicle owners can take to better protect their assets.
“Park in the garage,” Gast said, for those who are able to. “If you can’t, make sure to park in a well-lit area. And, if you see anything suspicious, call law enforcement.”
Some motorists are even going as far as installing shields, Gast said, which could deter possible thefts.
This type of crime, however, is not without risk and Gast said some cases resulted in tragedy.
A Burnaby man was found dead under a car only last month, according to a police report.
Police said the victim was believed to have been committing a property crime offence when the jack he had used to hoist the car gave way and crushed him. Police were unable to confirm the specifics of the offence.