Calgary city councilors voted unanimously on Tuesday to increase fines and explore other options to tackle theft of catalytic converters across the city.
Ward 14 Council motion. Peter Demong, and co-signed by several other councilors, asks the city administration to use the city’s business license bylaw to regulate the ownership of an independent catalytic converter.
Demong said the motion includes setting heavier fines to act as a deterrent.
“The fine should be at least $1,000 and up to encourage a real court appearance, instead of just paying the fine in an envelope and walking away.”
According to data from the Calgary Police Department, 3,174 thefts of catalytic converters were reported between January and November last year. This represents an increase from 1,560 thefts in 2021, while there were only 300 reported in 2020 and 205 in 2019.
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The increase is also attributed to the rise in the price of precious metals from which catalytic converters are made: platinum, palladium and rhodium.
The City of Calgary said replacing a catalytic converter can cost between $1,300 and $3,400.
“The goal is to find solutions,” Demong said.
Demong’s motion was inspired by a decision by the City of Leduc, which changed its bylaw to fine anyone in possession of unattached catalytic converters, except those with a valid commercial license for the automobile repair or the supply of automobile parts, or those who have a permit from the City of Leduc.
According to the Leduc RCMP, the program also includes partnering with local businesses to engrave a vehicle’s VIN number on the base of a catalytic converter to facilitate identification in the event of theft.
Although no stolen converters with the engraved VIN numbers have been found, the local RCMP detachment said the program is a useful deterrent.
“People are aware of this and now they know that we can identify the owner of this catalytic converter based on the VIN stamped on it, with the possibility of following it up with some sort of criminal code investigation.” said Leduc RCMP constable. Cheri-Lee Smith told PKBNEWS. “We want to keep these catalytic converters on vehicles in our communities and out of the reach of criminals.”
The Calgary Police Department recently announced a partnership with Kal Tire with a similar idea; vehicle owners can have their catalytic converters engraved with their VIN number under the pilot project until the end of March.
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“In Alberta, the law states that if you want to recycle a catalytic converter, you must provide proof of ownership,” said Tim Orpen, mechanical program manager for Kal Tire. “If the engraved VIN number doesn’t match that proof of ownership, they can’t take it to a recycler.”
According to Demong, the plan being developed by the city administration will work in tandem with this partnership.
Although Demong’s motion received unanimous approval from the city council, some concerns have been raised about the city’s ability to enforce new rules.
Ward 1 County Sonya Sharp noted new regulations and rule changes regarding single-use items, pet ownership and street harassment.
“I think as a board we have to ask ourselves if we can honestly implement these things that we’re offering,” Sharp told the board. “How many more of these can we offer without increasing application resources?”
The city administration is expected to return to council with recommendations on the matter in June.
Demong said the city administration will also look for other strategies in a bid to curb the surge in thefts.
“If anyone else has any ideas on how we can fix this, call my office, I’m open,” Demong said.
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