Theft of catalytic converters in Windsor area costing victims thousands of dollars

·4 min read
Leslie Porter estimates it will cost $10,000 to repair the damage done to the 'Poppy Bus' after its converter was stolen. (Windsor Senior Citizen Bus Society - image credit)
Leslie Porter estimates it will cost $10,000 to repair the damage done to the 'Poppy Bus' after its converter was stolen. (Windsor Senior Citizen Bus Society - image credit)

A spate of catalytic converter thefts in the Windsor, N.S., area is leaving some residents angry and creating difficulties for veterans and students who rely on the vehicles that were vandalized.

Catalytic converters are part of the exhaust system of vehicles and contain rhodium, platinum and palladium — all valuable metals.

The RCMP said there have been 26 incidents of theft and vandalism in West Hants and Kings and Lunenburg counties between Dec. 20, 2020 and March 10, 2021.

One of the latest victims is the Windsor Senior Citizen Bus Society, which had the converter stolen from an accessible bus for seniors as well as people with disabilities.

The vehicle was parked at the XL Truck and Equipment Services lot in the Windsor Industrial Park when the theft occurred over the weekend.

$10K in damage to accessible bus

Leslie Porter, the chair of the society, said whoever made off with the converter caused $10,000 in damage to the bus — one of two the organization has.

"They did a terrible mess on the bottom of it, cut all of our sensors and lines and plugs and all that sort of stuff besides taking the converter," she said.

Porter says the bus is used to transport people with disabilities and seniors.
Porter says the bus is used to transport people with disabilities and seniors.(Paul Palmeter/CBC)

The Ford diesel bus that was vandalized is known as the "Poppy Bus" because it's decorated with poppies in honour of veterans. A newer bus obtained in 2019 wasn't touched.

Porter said the cost of repairing the bus will hit the society hard.

"To put it in perspective, we do one major fundraiser every year and it's an auction and online Facebook auction, which brings in about $10,000," she said. "It'll cost us probably over a year's worth of fundraising money to fix the bus."

King's-Edgehill School affected

Another catalytic converter — worth $2,000 — was stolen from a 21-passenger bus used by King's-Edgehill School in Windsor to pick up students from the Chester area.

The theft is causing disruption for the school, which is using two smaller vehicles while it waits for the bus to be repaired.

Steven Porter, the school's director of finance and administration, said it could take up to six weeks to get a replacement part.

Demand driving the problem

Jeff Dunfield's vehicles were damaged at a service centre in Falmouth.

He said the truck sustained the most damage because other parts were taken in addition to the converter. He estimates the cost of replacement parts for the truck will amount to $9,700.

Jeff Dunfield says the problem is there is an easy market for the stolen parts.
Jeff Dunfield says the problem is there is an easy market for the stolen parts.(Paul Palmeter/CBC)

Dunfield said the problem is becoming worse because of the demand for the metals contained in the converters.

Rhodium is currently selling for close to $30,000 an ounce — more than 13 times the price of gold — and platinum and palladium are also fetching high prices.

In January, RCMP in P.E.I. laid 41 charges against five people in connection with a number of catalytic converter thefts that resulted in damages of more than $100,000.

"It's an easy market for them to sell to, which may be some of our problem," Dunfield said.

Converters easily stolen

Tyler McAdoo has a landscaping and excavating business near the lot in Windsor where thefts have occurred. He said he was hit a few weeks ago when employees started up two trucks and realized by the noise they made that there was a problem.

One of them was a snow-removal truck so he said he had to repair it right away. The cost of those repairs was $4,000.

Thieves can remove the parts in a matter of minutes with the right tools, says Tyler McAdoo.
Thieves can remove the parts in a matter of minutes with the right tools, says Tyler McAdoo.(Paul Palmeter/CBC)

McAdoo said with the right cutting tools, thieves can remove the converters in a matter of minutes.

RCMP told CBC News they believe the incidents are connected and investigations are ongoing.

Porter said she wants the thieves to reflect on the consequences their actions are having on the community.

"As far as our society is concerned, you've just taken money out of seniors' and people with disabilities' pockets — community pockets — that raised money to purchase these buses and keep them on the road."

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