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Cat Scratch: Manitoba expands catalytic converter engraving program following steep drop in thefts

Winnipeg, Manitoba — While much of the nation sits in a state of relative powerlessness when it comes to the theft of catalytic converters, a triple threat partnership between the province, the police and Winnipeg Crime Stoppers has greatly curbed theft rates in Manitoba, and its efforts are only becoming more expansive.

On July 18, The province of Manitoba mandated that automotive recyclers who buy scrap metal are now required to detail every transaction involving scrap metal and hold onto those records for two years, as per a series of amendments to the Scrap Metal Act.

First introduced in December 2021, the Scrap Metal Act was enacted in part to curb a 450 percent increase in catalytic converter theft between  2021 and 2022.

Between January to September, the province found that catalytic converter thefts had dropped by about 94 percent from its peak in April, when 353 thefts were reported, to just 19 reported thefts in September, two months after the act’s new regulations came into effect.

The Manitoba government attributes this decrease in thefts to Winnipeg Crime Stoppers’ catalytic converter engraving programs, where drivers may have their vehicle’s VIN engraved on the part so it could possibly be traced back to its owner in the event of its theft.

“Winnipeg Crime Stoppers is pleased to have played a part in the joint effort to address the catalytic converter thefts,” said president of Winnipeg Crime Stoppers, Paul Johnson.

“This would not have been possible without our partners representing 65 Winnipeg auto dealers and automotive service centres. They have all volunteered their time and shops at no charge to do their part to protect their community. Over 500 converters have been engraved and marked to deter these thefts. We are not aware that any of these 500 converters have been a target of theft. Despite the numbers dropping considerably, Winnipeg Crime Stoppers encourages motorists to continue to take advantage of the Save Your Cat program to deter thieves and protect vehicles.”

To keep the momentum going, RCMP in nearby Steinbach, M.B. are launching an engraving initiative of their own to serve the community and help keep thefts trending downward.

“We are seeing significant success in reducing catalytic converter theft because of changes to legislation, efforts by law enforcement and the work of Winnipeg Crime Stoppers,” said Manitoba justice minister Kelvin Goertzen.

“But we know we need to keep the pressure on catalytic converter thieves. We continue to encourage Manitobans to have vehicle VIN numbers engraved on catalytic converters to help disrupt the theft and resale of these parts.”

A similar catalytic converter engraving program was launched in Airdrie, Alta. in May of this year, though the RCMP detachment in charge of the program have yet to release statistics concerning its effectiveness.

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