Catalytic converters are going missing from Canada Post locations and police say the thefts are on the rise

·3 min read
The catalytic converter is a filtering device that's part of the exhaust system. Its primary function is to convert pollutants to less toxic material before air exits an exhaust pipe. (CBC - image credit)
The catalytic converter is a filtering device that's part of the exhaust system. Its primary function is to convert pollutants to less toxic material before air exits an exhaust pipe. (CBC - image credit)

Police are investigating after more than 30 catalytic converters were stolen from vehicles parked at Canada Post locations within the last two months, and thefts may only be a symptom of a larger problem throughout the Toronto area.

Toronto police were first called to a Canada Post centre in Scarborough on June 28, when five catalytic converters were taken off their fleet vehicles. A month later, 18 converters were stolen from a centre on Commissioners Street.

In total, more than $160,000 worth of goods were taken, police say.

Due to their ongoing investigations, Canada Post said in an emailed statement that, "it would be inappropriate to comment or offer details."

But police say the increase in thefts like these is in part due to the rise in the price of precious metals found inside the converters.

"It is quite an increase from what we've seen in the past few months," said Toronto Police Const. Tom Balaga, adding that thieves have started targeting businesses like car dealerships and fleet vehicles, jacking up the numbers of thefts.

Price of precious metals jumps

A catalytic converter is a filtering device that's part of an exhaust system. Its main function is to convert pollutants to less toxic materials before air exits an exhaust pipe. The devices can be found on the underside of most vehicles, though not on electric vehicles since they don't produce any emissions.

"Catalytic converter theft is nothing new, but what is new is the price of the precious metals," said Bryan Gast, the national director of investigative services at the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC).

Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press
Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press

Inside the converter are three precious metals: Platinum, rhodium and palladium.

Gast says thieves are collecting the converters, melting them down to get to the precious metals and selling them on the black market.

According to Kitco Metals, a retailer of precious metals that also provides market insights and data, all three of the precious metals have increased in price since this time last year.

Currently, platinum is selling at just over $1,300 per ounce, up from $1,200 in 2020, it says. Palladium is selling at $3,200 per ounce, up from $2,800. And rhodium is selling at $21,500 per ounce, more than doubling in price from this time last year.

'It's coast to coast'

Gast says catalytic converter thefts aren't just an issue in the Toronto area, but across North America.

"It's coast to coast," he said.

"Every province is experiencing it and we're actually having conversations with our U.S. partners and they're having the exact same issues."

The IBC says it's in the process of gathering numbers to get a better sense of how big a problem the thefts are.

In the meantime, Balaga says there are precautions drivers can take to help prevent this situation from happening to them:

  • Park in gated, well-lit areas with security cameras when possible.

  • Keep vehicles in a garage with the door closed when not in use.

  • Park vehicles in a way that makes it harder to access their underside, for example, against a wall or by other lower vehicles.

  • Use heat-resistant neon-coloured spray paint on the entire catalytic converter. This makes it more visible and can deter thieves.

  • If you have a security system on your vehicle, calibrate it so vibration sets it off. This ensures the alarm activates if a thief tries to saw off the converter.

  • VIN stickers and engraved VIN numbers of catalytic converters can deter thieves and make it easier to identify when stolen.

  • Security devices can be purchased that attach to the converter, making it harder to steal.

"We want to educate the public as much as possible to be aware," said Balaga. If anyone has any information or notices anything suspicious, he says, call the police.

"Let us know so we can investigate it."

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