Spike in exhaust device thefts from Hamilton vehicles has police concerned

Hamilton police say the number of catalytic converter thefts in the city are on the rise.

Since May, investigators say 61 converters have been stolen in the Hamilton area with the thefts happening more and more overnight, at malls, educational facilities and other commercial areas during the last six months.

Detectives say the thieves have been simply cutting them out of large vehicles, like SUVs, because of the accessibility of the part.

Dave McDonald, president of Bodyline Auto Recyclers, says a catalytic converter is a key component in any vehicle’s exhaust system since it essentially reduces the emission of toxic gases and pollutants.

“It’s like an oven, it burns off anything the engine didn’t, and makes for cleaner emissions,” McDonald told Global News.

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McDonald says the attraction for thieves to steal the converters is the high-value metals that can be easily sold to scrap metal yards.

“It’s worth more than gold an ounce,” said McDonald, “It’s palladium, rhodium … let’s put it this way, the motivation for them to do it is definitely the scrap metal and any scrap metal dealer would buy it.”

Police say vehicles in Hamilton's downtown core are most likely to be targeted in a catalytic converter theft.

Police say vehicles in Hamilton's downtown core are most likely to be targeted in a catalytic converter theft.

Hamilton Police Service

McDonald says it makes sense that larger vehicles would be the target of thieves, since taking a converter from a truck or an SUV is much easier when negotiating the room between the road and the bottom of the car.

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He also says with the right tools it wouldn’t take long to get a converter loose.

“Power tools have come a long way with cordless sawzalls, cordless zip guns … if the guy has the right equipment, like ten minutes would be plenty of time to do the whole deal.”

Hamilton police say where and how you park your vehicle can reduce the risk of losing a valuable part. Parking in well-lit areas, closer to pedestrian or vehicle traffic rather than isolated areas, or near video surveillance could substantially reduce the chances of theft.

When it comes to selling off a part for money, McDonald says it’s more likely a scrap metal outfit that will take a chance on an auto part from an unknown source.

“We belong to the Ontario Automotive Recyclers Association (OARA), and one of our rules to be a member is to not buy loose parts,” said McDonald, “A catalytic converter would be suspect to me, and I don’t buy them unless I know the person, know the car, and know the situation.”

Hamilton police are looking to hear from anyone with information on the thefts. Tips can be made at 905-546-8934 or 905-546-2991, at Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or online.

WATCH: Pandemic of auto theft: Toronto police

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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