Alberta is taking aim at rising catalytic converter thefts via new legislation that requires all scrap metal dealers to report transactions to law enforcement. Jail time was also increased.
On Nov. 1, 2020, the Alberta government passed the Protecting Alberta Industry from Theft Act. Its aim was to make it tougher for criminals to sell stolen metals for scrap.
Despite legislation, Alberta RCMP reported almost a doubling of thefts come the end of 2021. There were 1,147 thefts from January to Nov. 11, 2021, compared to 647 thefts in 2020.
As catalytic converter thefts have spiked across the Edmonton region, Leduc RCMP has also taken extra steps in combating these quick crimes, partnering with Leduc businesses to create the “You Etch It. We Catch It” program. It involves etching the first eight digits of a VIN number onto a vehicle’s catalytic converter. Etching the VIN is performed at no cost to customers and assists officers in identifying stolen property.
“It’s something the police community is looking into. Our biggest problem is that if we arrest someone, we can’t always connect them to the actual offence and lay charges,” said Cpl. Troy Savinkoff of RCMP K-Division.
Leduc Fountain Tire is one of the businesses partnering with RCMP to etch VIN numbers. When Lesenko was asked if he would participate if St. Albert RCMP offered an etching program, he replied, “In a heartbeat.”
St. Albert RCMP said it does not have a program like the one in Leduc to track catalytic converters. Cpl. Morgan Kyle said in an email on Tuesday theft of the car parts jumped five-fold between 2019 and 2020. In 2019 there were 22 calls for catalytic converter thefts; 107 in 2020. Before December 21, 2021, there were 70 calls.
Leduc RCMP stand with partnering businesses in the “You Etch It. We Catch It” program
RCMP in southern Alberta located $550,000 to $600,000 in stolen vehicles following the bust of an alleged chop shop near the city of Chestermere in mid-December.
The Southern Alberta Crime Reduction Unit (SACRU), a regional wing of the RCMP, received a tip from the Calgary Police Service of the possible location of a stolen Toyota 4Runner in rural Chestermere on December 2.
“SACRU attended an address in Rocky View County on Range Road 285 near Highway 1 and observed items on the property that led them to believe the property was being used as a chop shop,” according to a press release from the RCMP.
Police found at the location; eight stolen pickup trucks, two stolen SUVs, a Cat Skid Steer, one flat-deck utility trailer with skid steer attachments, one small utility trailer, one Arctic Cat side-by-side and one Honda quad.
“Two of the vehicles recovered had been chopped and are non-repairable and one pickup had its VIN changed whereby the VIN on the door and dash were replaced with false VIN stickers for a matching vehicle,” the release said.
“The other seven vehicles were found to be in excellent condition. Two of the recovered vehicles were stolen during test drives from Calgary dealerships.” Charges have yet to be laid and the investigation is still ongoing. There is no indication at this time that the suspect is in any way involved in the Canadian automotive industry.
Among the vehicles found by RCMP were eight stolen pickup trucks, two stolen SUVs, a Cat Skid Steer, one flat-deck utility trailer with skid steer attachments, one small utility trailer, one Arctic Cat side-by-side and one Honda quad.