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Catalytic converter thief with saw no match for Burnaby police dog Kal

These types of thefts are way up
police dog
Kal is a Burnaby RCMP service dog.

A thief armed with a saw was no match for Burnaby RCMP dog Kal.

A thief attempting to steal catalytic converters in Burnaby was caught targeting four vehicles. An electric saw was found nearby and Kal was dispatched to track down the thief.

One man is now in custody.

Catalytic converter thefts across the Lower Mainland reached 2,154 in 2020 and the vehicle-related crime is showing no signs of abating in the first three months of this year.

The theft of the exhaust emission devices has led to hundreds of deductible insurance claims generated from vehicle owners, with the Insurance Corporation of B.C. reporting losses close to $2 million last year.

The persistent crime has triggered the Vancouver Police Board to call on the B.C. government to amend the Metal Dealers and Recyclers Act to put the onus on scrap dealers to collect identification from sellers.

Currently, there is no requirement for a scrap dealer — where converters are typically sold for up to $200 each for the precious metals inside them — to report a transaction.

“This makes Vancouver Police Department investigations more challenging because suspected offenders leave the city of Vancouver with the stolen converter,” said a report attached to a police board resolution forwarded last month to the B.C. Association of Police Boards.

“Identification is not required to sell catalytic converters, which complicates suspect identification.”

Vancouver police investigated 203 reports of converter thefts in 2020 and said 71 thefts occurred between Jan. 1 and March 6 of this year; for the same period in 2020, vehicle owners filed 33 reports.

Police say a converter, which converts pollutants into less harmful emissions before they leave a vehicle’s exhaust system, can be stolen in seconds with a blow torch or cutting tool.

Thieves often target vehicles higher up from the ground such as minivans and SUVs to allow easier access to the underside of a vehicle.

In the Vancouver thefts this year, Hondas accounted for 37 per cent of the targeted vehicles followed by Fords (26 per cent) and Toyotas (seven per cent), according to a VPD news release issued Thursday.

ICBC statistics for the Lower Mainland show claim costs of $1.9 million for 2020, with the average claim at $2,117.

The $1.9 million represents 927 claims submitted to ICBC that have costs associated. There may be additional thefts for those without ICBC comprehensive insurance, according to an email from the corporation, which confirmed that not all victims report a theft to the agency or police.

Claims costs also exclude the cost of a person's deductible.

  • With additional reporting by Mike Howell, Glacier Media