A growing number of catalytic converter thefts in Calgary has prompted several city councilors to try to find ways to deter the thieves.
A motion by Ward 14 Councilor Peter Demong and co-signed by several others was tabled at Wednesday’s executive committee meeting at City Hall.
It asks city administration to propose changes to the city’s business license ordinance that would regulate the possession of an unconnected catalytic converter, including establishing stiffer fines that are “proportional to the seriousness of the problem of a stolen catalytic converter. “
“Increasing the fine to more than $1,000, because it will actually be mandatory a court appearance instead of just paying a yellow ticket,” Demong told Global News. “That’s one of the most one of the most important aspects of it.”
The motion also asks that the administration come up with any other strategies, programs or options to reduce the theft of catalytic converters.
Anyone caught with a detached catalytic converter without a license can be fined in Leduc
The motion’s introduction came after the City of Leduc changed its ordinance to fine anyone in possession of unattached catalytic converters, except for those with a valid auto repair or auto parts supply business license, or those who have a permit from the City of Leduc.
“We were fortunate enough to have Leduc show us the way by deciding to adjust their business licensing practices,” Demong said. “That’s exactly what we’re going to do.”
According to the Calgary Police Service, reports of catalytic converter thefts have increased this year compared to last year, although the number of reports has started to decrease since the summer months.
Between January and the end of October, there were 2,754 catalytic converter thefts. There were 1,560 reported thefts in 2021.
The rise is also attributed to the rising price of precious metals from which catalytic converters are made: platinum, palladium and rhodium.
Police officials said the incidents can be difficult to investigate if the theft is discovered after the fact, leaving the victim to pay for repairs out of pocket.
Other challenges, police said, include proving that the catalytic converter was stolen and later sold to a buyer who was also aware that the converter may have been stolen.
“The source is not the recyclers, but they are the ones most of this goes to,” Demong said. “So this is where you have to stop the problem where the problem exists.”
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In 2020, the provincial government introduced stricter regulations of the industry, which includes the purchase and sale of catalytic converters.
It requires recyclers to obtain proof of identification from a seller, keep records of the transaction, including specific information about the sale such as the date and time of the sale, a description of the metal, as well as the make, model and license plate . number of the vehicle in which the vehicle was delivered.
Big House Converters, a metal and catalytic converter recycler in Calgary, has been vetting its customers since its inception in 2011.
According to Eric Grand-Maison, president and founder of Big House Converters, the regulations make it harder to sell catalytic converters, whether they’re legal or not.
“We’ve seen about a 50 percent reduction in our through traffic as a result,” he said.
“Those converters still go somewhere, and they are traded for cash or they are shipped out. So it made the industry more underground.”
Grand-Maison said the solution is to be able to identify stolen catalytic converters by engraving a VIN number on them. His company started the practice through what is called Secure Mark; which includes the creation of a database to help victims of catalytic converter theft.
“We need to be able to trace the converter back to the vehicle it came from,” he said. “If we can do that, it’s the only way law enforcement can incriminate the thief for the actual crime.”
Grand-Maison said there is also an environmental impact to the thefts, as the catalytic converter controls a vehicle’s emissions.
“Once a vehicle’s catalytic converter is stolen, it’s now going to be a polluter — if it’s replaced with an aftermarket converter — for the rest of its life,” he said. “The aftermarket converter will only last a year, maybe two years.”
According to Demong, the city is seeking information from the industry to help shape options if the motion is approved by council.
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