After a spike in thefts of vehicles' catalytic converters, North Vancouver RCMP have arrested a man they allege was caught in the act.
Officers saw the suspect crawl under an SUV on Purcell Way near Capilano University around 3 a.m. Thursday and emerge a few moments later with a saw and catalytic converter. After a brief chase and scuffle, officers arrested a 36-year-old Surrey man. He now faces charges of theft, mischief, possession of break-and-enter tools, possession of a concealed weapon and assaulting an officer.
At least 36 North Vancouver residents have fallen victim to catalytic converter theft since the start of March, according to North Vancouver RCMP. Almost half of those cases were in June. Two of the victims have been hit twice in that timeframe, according to Cpl. Richard De Jong, North Vancouver RC MP spokesman.
Chances are, you won't know you've been hit until you start your vehicle's engine and it lets loose a horrific roar.
The auto part used to reduce exhaust emissions is popular among thieves because it's relatively easy to steal and offload with a scrap metal dealer for the precious metals it contains inside.
Toyota 4Runners and Tacomas from the 1990s to the mid-2000s are the easiest marks thanks to their high clearance and exposed muffler pipe. Once underneath, it is just a brief effort with a pipe cutter or saw to cut the part off.
"It is easy for someone to roll under, cut the catalytic converter and roll out and be on their way," De Jong said. "It takes between 11 and 15 seconds, once they're under your car to rip them off."
Particularly troubling is the cost of replacing the part compared to how much they fetch on the black market, De Jong said. "They get between $20 and $30 per catalytic converter. They cost between $800 and $1,200 to replace," he said.
Because the converters don't have serial numbers, it will be hard to determine if the suspect in Thursday's arrest is responsible for any of the other thefts, according to police, although investigators are checking to see if he matches previous suspect descriptions.
The thief (or thieves) have been active in Lynn Valley and along the Grand Boulevard corridor, the area between Queens Road and 19th Street, as well as Mount Seymour Parkway, and Deep Cove. Culprits like to case the neighbourhood looking for easy targets and the return a few nights later, so it's important to report suspicious activity to police, De Jong said.
Police recommend owners of targeted vehicles park in garages or welllit areas to deter thieves. Some Toyota owners hired mechanics to weld a metal shield over their catalytic converter, though police urge checking with the manufacturer first.