Catalytic converter theft

Many reports of car-related theft in Park Ex

Many people have reported having catalytic converters sawn off and stolen from their cars. Photo: SPVM

Over the past weeks, several Park Extension residents have come forward with increased reports of car theft and car-related theft in the area. Specifically, many people have reported having catalytic converters sawn off and stolen from under their cars.

This expensive car part plays a vital role in the vehicles’ exhaust system, by converting toxic gases and pollutants in exhaust gas into less-toxic pollutants. 

They are often targeted for theft as they command a high price on the black market and are not serialized and therefore not traceable by police. 

Stolen catalytic converters

Alex is a Park Ex resident and was recently targeted in a catalytic converter theft on the corner of Stuart and Jean-Talon. He preferred to only give his first name as he did not want to be targeted again. 

“Yes indeed it’s intensified, I was expecting my catalytic converter to eventually get stolen,” said Alex reflecting on the recent theft from his Honda CRV SUV during a snow clearing operation.

“When I started the car and it made a racket, my first instinct was to go see if the catalytic converter was gone,” continued Alex, adding he had seen that many in the area were being targeted recently.

He does not intend to report the incident to the police as he does not feel they will be able to do anything. “The catalytic converter isn’t engraved with a serial number so it’s impossible to find it, I don’t think the police have time for that,” said Alex, adding that he thinks there’s a lack of police presence in the area to prevent theft.

“When I started the car and it made a racket, my first instinct was to go see if the catalytic converter was gone,”

Stable trend

This theft was in addition to two others reported the same week on various community Facebook pages. Both Gargi Roy and René Wilson reported having their catalytic converters sawn off and stolen overnight. 

“Our catalytic converter was stolen on Tuesday, I think during the night. We noticed on Wednesday morning,” said Roy when asked about his experience. 

Although there seems to have been an increase recently, crime numbers published by the City of Montreal indicate otherwise. Between Jan. 2021 and Jan. 2022, there were 94 car-related thefts in Park Extension, down from 98 in the same period of the previous year.

Nonetheless, car theft outright had gone up significantly, from 71 in 2020 to 85 the following year. These numbers are still not exhaustive as many thefts remain unreported. 

Car theft numbers from 2020 (top) compared to those of 2021 (bottom), showing a sharp spike in the latter part of last year. Source: Vue sur la sécurité publique, Ville de Montréal.

High-level arrest

Last week, police announced the arrest of the head of a Montreal metal recycling company in connection with an operation involving the theft and fencing of vehicle catalytic converters. 

Based in Saint-Leonard, the suspect in question allegedly bought stolen catalytic converters from different individuals and then resold them in bulk at a high price for their components.

The police said they conducted searches and apprehended the 28-year-old suspect at his businesses’ main office, seizing approximately $260,000 in cash.

Few solutions

Although a fairly common occurrence, there is little that car owners can do to prevent this type of theft other than parking their vehicle in a closed garage, which is not an option for most in Park Extension. 

“I did not install a new catalytic converter, it’s really not eco-friendly and I’m risking getting a ticket if I get caught but it’s the only option I can afford,” said Alex. 

“I don’t have $1200 to install a new catalytic converter and then maybe have it stolen again,” he added, explaining that if reported to his insurance company his premium would also go up.

Although not accessible to everyone, some solutions do exist to prevent this type of theft. Car owners can ask a garage to weld the bolts shut to make theft more difficult or can also install an adjustable CatClamp cage that covers the converter with cables and a lock and deters theft. 

Vehicle theft and vehicle-related theft as shown per intersection in Park Extension for the year 2021. Source: Vue sur la sécurité publique, Ville de Montréal.