Minister of Public Safety Kris Austin said it's no secret catalytic converter theft is an issue in New Brunswick.
"Once a catalytic converter is stolen, it's often taken to a salvage dealer in the province and sold for a couple hundred dollars. But it can cost thousands of dollars for the victims to replace these devices on their vehicles," said Austin, during a news conference at St. Croix Auto in Fredericton.
Austin said he will be introducing amendments to the Salvage Dealers Licensing Act on Tuesday which will make it harder to sell stolen catalytic converters and other commonly stolen goods like plumber's lead, brass valves, copper, lead flashing and copper wire.
The amendments would double the fines for salvage dealers who don't comply, said Austin. One of the more significant amendments being introduced, he said, is one prohibiting salvage dealers from paying cash for catalytic converters or other high-theft items.
Instead, they'll need to pay using cheque, e-transfer or another traceable method, said Austin.
"We know that in many of these cases, those who are stealing these items, they're doing it for quick and easy cash," he said. "By creating a paper trail, we aim to deter criminals from committing these crimes."
Austin said other proposed amendments would add catalytic converters and vehicle batteries to the list of high-theft items that require salvage dealers to record date of purchase, price paid, and the name and address of the person who sold the item.
Salvage dealers will also be required to record a government-issued identification document for high-theft items along with registration information of the vehicle from which the catalytic converter was removed.
"We are focused on making the lives of criminals harder," said Austin. "And these amendments will do just that."
Andy LeClair, the RCMP superintendent for the west district of New Brunswick, said to reporters that the new amendments will put the province in a better position to close down the market for stolen goods. He said it's been done successfully in other provinces.
LeClair said catalytic converter thefts have increased across the country in the last few years, noting that in New Brunswick, catalytic converter theft is higher in the Moncton area.
He said car dealerships are often a target.
Jonathan Brawn, managing partner and general manager at St. Croix Auto, said in the last six to eight months, they've had about 12 catalytic converters stolen from their dealership. He said it's a significant issue with other dealerships, too.
Brawn said they have cameras and have paid people to watch the dealerships in the evening due to the thefts.
Austin said the problem likely won't be completely eliminated and Brawn agreed.
"But if we can go from 10 problems to two problems, that's much more manageable," said Brawn. "No system or legislation will cure all sins or make it perfect. But I do think this is going to greatly reduce the impact, which is a step in the right direction."