Thieves stealing auto parts costly for Cape Breton vehicle owners

·2 min read

Cape Breton Regional Police are reporting a spike in catalytic converters being stolen from commercial vehicles and it's becoming a costly problem for vehicle owners.

Police say 20 catalytic converters have gone missing from commercial vehicles in the last three weeks.

"Thieves commonly target large parking lots where there's a large number of safe fleet vehicles parked in overnight hours where they can go in and out and collect a large number at once without being seen," said Desiree Magnus, the regional police service's communications adviser.

The auto parts contain varying amounts of precious metals including platinum, palladium and rhodium and are used to remove harmful exhaust gases.

Their theft has been common in southern Ontario and some western provinces over the past couple of years and while Magnus said it has happened before in Cape Breton, it's become frequent since the end of December.

Ken MacRae, owner of Merit Muffler in Sydney, said he's had four or five customers in the past couple of weeks needing to replace their stolen catalytic converters.

Submitted by Cape Breton Regional Police
Submitted by Cape Breton Regional Police

He said replacement parts can run between $400 and $1,200, and thieves often create extra work by hacking them out of the exhaust system.

"The people that are taking them are using, I'm assuming ... a cordless reciprocating saw," MacRae said. "Usually, it's a fairly expensive repair.

"It all depends what other collateral damage is done. I've seen vehicles ... like a Honda CR-V one time, they cut the catalytic converter off and they made a mess of it. This poor guy, it ended up it was around $2,600.

"Now, the insurance company paid for it, but it was a substantial bill."

Under Nova Scotia law, scrap metal dealers have to record the name and contact information of sellers and have to hand that over to police when asked.

Magnus said police have not yet tracked down the recently stolen parts.

"Commonly, these materials are sold at scrap metal facilities, either in local jurisdictions or ... shipped elsewhere and sold to facilities in outside jurisdictions," she said.

Tom Ayers/CBC
Tom Ayers/CBC

Magnus said thefts seem to follow the fluctuating commodity prices for precious metals. A few years ago, thieves were targeting copper pipe and wire.

"We do still see copper thefts," she said. "We're not seeing it right now, but it certainly hasn't disappeared."

To reduce the chances of theft, police say vehicles should be parked in well-lit areas with surveillance cameras close to pedestrian or vehicle traffic.