Increase in catalytic converter theft

A follow-up explainer from the SPVM

Many people have reported having catalytic converters stolen from under their cars. Photo: Shutterstock

The risk of catalytic converter theft has been on the mind of many in the Park Extension neighbourhood. Many residents have reported increased incidents of overnight theft from under their cars over the past few weeks.

This car part plays a vital role in the vehicles’ exhaust system by converting toxic gases and pollutants in the exhaust into less-toxic pollutants. It is often targeted due to its high resale price on the black market. 

The issue was covered in last week’s edition Nouvelles Parc-Extension News with an orientation towards the stories of those affected by the recent wave of theft. 

This week we spoke with SPVM spokesperson Anik de Repentigny about what is behind this increase and how to prevent it.

“The poste de quartier (PDQ) 33 indicated a slight increase in the theft of vehicle catalytic converters in Park Extension in 2021 compared to 2020,”

Rise in reports to PDQ 33

Catalytic converter theft is neither new nor rare on the island of Montreal, as this type of theft has been on the rise over the past few years. In 2020, 2,219 cases were reported to the SPVM on the island of Montreal.

That’s three times more than in 2019, which saw 679 cases reported and about seven times more than in 2018, which saw 323 reported. Preliminary data for 2021 and early 2022 is not yet available.
“The poste de quartier (PDQ) 33 indicated a slight increase in the theft of vehicle catalytic converters in Park Extension in 2021 compared to 2020,” said SPVM spokesperson Anik de Repentigny. 

“The increase in thefts seen since 2018 is caused primarily by an increase in the price of certain metals found in catalytic converter components, such as palladium, rhodium and platinum,” she explained.

The SPVM often hosts operations to tag and engrave catalytic converters free of charge to dissuade theft. Photo: Shutterstock

Catalytic converters not engraved

Catalytic converters are especially targeted because they are largely untraceable, as they are not engraved with either a serial number or any identifying information. This factor makes them virtually impossible to retrieve once stolen. 

The SPVM encourages motorists to have their catalytic converters engraved professionally or do it themselves if they have the tools and the know-how. This would deter theft and could help retrace stolen converters back to their original owners if seized.

“The Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) and its PDQs, in partnership with partners including Info-Crime Montréal, conducted catalytic converter identification operations in various sectors last year,” added de Repentigny. 

Engraving and tagging operations

Technicians will label the catalytic converters with a unique identification number during the first-come, first-serve tagging operations. A QR code linking to a secure accredited database, the International Safety Registry, is also on the label. 

Although none are planned for this year, de Repentigny said they were held regularly and encouraged all car owners interested in participating to stay up to date. The service is offered free of charge and takes between 10 and 20 minutes. 

According to de Repentigny, many law enforcement agencies are currently working with car manufacturers to put a serial number on catalytic converters in future models.