By Carolyn McTighe
Crime Prevention Liaison-K Division
Catalytic converter theft is an ongoing concern across Alberta and a problem the RCMP are proactively looking for ways to combat. New crime prevention initiatives like You Etch It. We Catch It, a program created by Leduc RCMP in collaboration with the City of Leduc, are being developed to educate not only vehicle owners, but also vehicle dealerships and service shops on the benefit of ID etching.
The program gives customers the ability to have the last digits of their VIN etched into their catalytic converter by their dealership or auto repair shop, at no additional charge.
This identifying mark allows for any stolen converter to be traced back to the victim, and also acts as a deterrent as metal scrap recycling shops are aware of the program and look to identify these marked converters, which are then reported to police.
What makes a catalytic converter so desirable is that within its design are valuable metal components made out of platinum, rhodium and palladium. These metals have a high value and the converters are relatively easy to locate and remove from vehicles.
By September 2022 Alberta RCMP reported the theft of 1,302 converters, a concerning trend considering that 2021 alone had a total of 1,452 thefts. These thefts span all the areas currently under RCMP jurisdiction, and exclude most of the major metropolitan centers.
With the success of this program in Leduc there is hope that other businesses across the province will adopt a similar service for customers to further aid in the fight against catalytic converter theft. In Calgary, two local businesses have begun to provide their own solutions to the problem.
Big House Converters, a converter, battery and non-ferrous materials recycler, currently offers laser etching to customers. While Minute Muffler, in northeast Calgary, is offering a slightly different approach.
The business currently books appointments to wrap converters in wire cabling to inhibit the ability for thieves to steal converters easily and quickly.
Both businesses do charge for the service and an estimate can be provided by contacting the companies directly.
The Alberta government is also working toward finding a solution to this ever growing concern. In 2020 Alberta passed the Protecting Alberta Industry from Theft Act.
This legislation was created to ensure that scrap metal dealers work with local law enforcement to report transactions and ensure that transactions are done using traceable currency such as cheques and electronic transfers, rather than cash. The act also outlines that sellers must provide government issued ID and that this information along with the transaction details needs to be kept by the dealer.
The hope is that with new police created initiatives, government legislation and consumer and business support, theft of catalytic converters will begin to decline and this continuing problem will begin to see improvement.
RCMP would like to remind the public, that if they see suspicious activity, or hear sawing/grinding noises at night, or witness a crime in progress, call 911 immediately.