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Alert neighbour, spike belt help police nab North Vancouver 'cat' burglar suspects

Deflated tires slow getaway over Second Narrows bridge
catalytic converter
Thieves have been targeting catalytic converters on parked cars in North Vancouver.

An alert neighbour and a spike belt proved no match for a pair of “cat burglars” spied trying to make off with part of a vehicle in North Vancouver this week.

Police were called just after midnight on Sunday after a resident of North Vancouver’s upper Lonsdale neighbourhood spotted two thieves allegedly removing a catalytic converter from his neighbour’s Honda CRV.

As police officers headed to the scene, they spotted a vehicle leaving the area that matched the description provided by the witness, said Sgt. Peter DeVries, spokesman for the North Vancouver RCMP. Police activated their lights and sirens and attempted to pull over the vehicle. Instead, the driver decided to make a getaway, fleeing east on Highway 1.

Out of concern for public safety, officers decided not to start a car chase, said DeVries, but police quickly came up with a plan to intercept the vehicle. Officers positioned themselves some distance down the highway, and then laid down a 'spike belt' tire deflation device ahead of the getaway vehicle, he said.

"The vehicle drove over the spike belt, which deflated three tires. That significantly slowed their escape.”

The suspects eventually abandoned the vehicle on the other side of the Ironworkers Memorial Second Narrows Bridge and fled on foot into an East Vancouver neighbourhood."

North Vancouver officers requested assistance from Burnaby RCMP and the Vancouver Police Department to search for the suspects. Additional police flooded the area, and the unoccupied vehicle was soon located near Slocan Street in Vancouver. Shortly after, two suspects were found near the intersection of Renfrew Street and East Hastings Street and were taken into custody.

Two men in their 30s, one a resident of Surrey and the other of Port Coquitlam, are alleged to have committed a variety of offences, including theft, mischief, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, and flight from police. One of the men was also arrested on an outstanding warrant from Langley.

The arrests come after North Vancouver RCMP have been warning the public about catalytic converter thefts and asking them to report suspicious activities in their neighbourhoods.

In this case, the quick actions of the neighbour in calling police were key to making an arrest, said DeVries. "The neighbour did exactly what we've been encouraging the community to do,” he said.

In July, another ‘cat’ burglar caught prowling underneath a parked minivan at 3 a.m. was stopped in his tracks by a North Vancouver officer on a routine patrol.

Further investigation revealed multiple angle grinders and cut catalytic converters in the suspect’s vehicle,

Police in both North and West Vancouver have reported a spike this year in the number of catalytic converter thefts from vehicles being reported.

Every vehicle has a catalytic converter as part of the exhaust system in its underbelly. They are used to mitigate the harmful pollutants that the engine emits, but they contain precious metals that some unscrupulous scrap metal dealers will pay money for. The price of a new catalytic converter varies depending on the vehicle, but the labour for installation as well as insurance deductibles can substantially increase the cost following a theft.