Thefts from cars are on the rise in Surrey, with catalytic converters the most popular target for offenders.
Catalytic converters are part of a vehicle’s exhaust system, designed to reduce both emissions and noise.
These thefts are not a new phenomenon, but have been an issue for a long time for the precious components found inside the vessels.
“Catalytic converter thefts continue to be an issue across the region. We know these are being targeted for the value of the metals inside the catalytic converters,” Cst Sarbjit Sangha of Surrey RCMP told Peace Arch News.
Three types of metals that are found inside catalytic converters are platinum, rhodium, and palladium. These are some of the most economically valuable metals, making the devices popular item to sell on the black market.
An employee from an automotive shop says catalytic converter thefts are common because the crime can be done with speed and near-silence.
Vehicles with a higher centre of gravity are often targeted more frequently, he said, because cars that are lower to the ground are more difficult to get under and will make the theft a challenge.
The cost to replace a missing catalytic converter can be upwards of $500 in Surrey, as confirmed by multiple auto-repair shops throughout the city. The exact price is dependent on different things, including the type of car that needs the replacement.
One easy way to spot if a vehicle is missing a catalytic converter is if it makes an extremely loud, hard-to-ignore noise when started, the auto shop employee said.
According to RCMP’s crime analytics stats, for the months of April, May and June, 492 catalytic converter thefts have been reported, in addition to the general thefts from vehicles which were up 22 per cent.
The total number of attempted and successful thefts of catalytic converters for the year so far, until Aug. 22, is 1,322. This is a jump from the same statistic for entire year of 2021, which was 948.
Cloverdale East, Central Newton and Fleetwood are the areas of Surrey that are hit hardest with these thefts, Sangha said, adding that RCMP’s crime analysts found that “South Surrey was at the bottom of the list.”
To date (Aug. 25), there have been nine reports of catalytic converter thefts to Surrey RCMP from TransLink’s South Surrey Park and Ride.
Metro Vancouver Transit Police has only had one incident of a catalytic converter theft reported to them in the last three months, Const. Amanda Steed told PAN, adding that the crime did not happen in the South Surrey Park and Ride location.
“In response to the recent incidents, we have increased patrols in the area as we want to ensure that those who choose to use public transit, can do so confidently,” Steed said.
To combat the increasing reports made to Surrey RCMP, Sangha said that police have employed a strategy of targeting “prolific offenders who are responsible for a large number of property crimes.”
“In Q2 (April, May and June), four prolific offenders were arrested and charges were recommended. One out of four was remanded in custody for breaching his conditions from a previous investigation into catalytic converter theft. Two out of four offenders had over 500 police interactions combined, of which the majority is property crime related,” Sangha said.
The vehicles that police see most commonly targeted by thieves are Hyundai Tucson, Honda CRV, Hyundai Santa Fe, Mitsubishi RVR and Kia Sportage.
For motorists to best protect their vehicles when left unattended, police shared some tips on how and where to park.
“Police suggest parking (when possible) inside garages, secure lots, in well-lit areas, or parking stalls that may be close to entrances/exits with higher volume of vehicle/pedestrian traffic,” Sangha said.
“Parking with the passenger side door close to a curb or wall that makes access to under the vehicle difficult can be a deterrent. Speak to your garage about options for aftermarket anti-theft devices or alarms.”
Both Transit Police and Surrey RCMP encourage everyone to report these crimes, even attempted ones.