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'Cat' burglar targets two school buses in West Van

Thieves are on the prowl for catalytic converters in West Van and North Van. Across the North Shore, there have been 88 reported thefts of the vehicle part so far this year.
catalytic converter
Thieves have been targeting catalytic converters on vehicles parked at West Vancouver schools.

A ‘cat’ burglar is on the prowl among parked vehicles on the North Shore and this time vehicles at two schools have been among those targeted.

Two school buses parked at Collingwood School’s Morven campus had their catalytic converters stolen sometime between May 21 and May 26.

West Vancouver Police Department got a call from staff at the school on the morning of May 26 after discovering the vehicle part was missing from two 2017 Chevrolet school buses. According to officers who investigated, thieves “clearly used a cutting tool,” said Const. Kevin Goodmurphy, spokesman for the police department. Cost to replace the two converters is about $3,000.

Collingwood wasn’t the only school hit. The same week, a catalytic converter was also removed from a 2022 Honda Element owned by a staff member at Rockridge Secondary that had been parked at the school for several days.

Overnight between May 20 and 21, a converter was also taken from a Ford van parked in West Vancouver.

Goodmurphy said there have been 12 reported thefts of catalytic converters in West Vancouver so far this year. “That’s unusually high for us,” he said.

Similar thefts have been reported in North Vancouver, where a whopping 76 catalytic converter thefts had been reported between the start of the year and the end of May. That's significantly up from 18 catalytic converter thefts in North Vancouver during the same time last year, said Sgt. Peter DeVries, spokesman for the North Vancouver detachment. Most of the thefts have happened in neighbourhoods north of Highway 1, he said, although no particular makes or models of vehicles appear to have been targeted.

Last summer, North Vancouver was hit with a string of catalytic converter thefts from parked vehicles, with six reported thefts in three weeks during June 2020.

Catalytic converters are part of a vehicle’s exhaust system used to mitigate harmful pollutants that the engine emits. But they contain precious metals that some scrap metal dealers will pay money for.

Owners normally discover their catalytic converter has been stolen when they start the vehicle and find the engine is unusually loud, said Goodmurphy.

For a typical car, a new catalytic converter will cost about $200, but the labour for installation as well as insurance deductibles can substantially increase the cost following a theft.

Police say the best way to avoid having your catalytic converter stolen is to park your vehicle in a garage or in a well-lit area.

In 2016, a North Vancouver provincial court judge handed down a nine-month jail sentence to a Surrey man after he pleaded guilty to theft, possession of property obtained by crime and resisting arrest. The Crown said he had been staking out victims on the North Shore and eventually sold 66 catalytic converters to a scrap metal dealer in Abbotsford.