In search of a payday, thieves increasingly crawling under Sask. vehicles and cutting out catalytic converters

A Saskatchewan auto repair shop is noticing a troubling trend — more catalytic converters are being stolen out of vehicles.

A catalytic converter, also known as a cat, is a device found under a vehicle that controls emissions exhaust.

Dean Matlock, owner of Minute Muffler, says he gets about 20 calls for cat repairs per week.

“They’re going under with a cordless (saw), stealing them in broad daylight,” Matlock tells CTV News at his shop.

Depending on the converter, the repair cost can range from $500 to $2,000.

Matlock says the precious metals inside the part are making it a hot ticket item for thieves.

“Rhodium, the price on it has really skyrocketed. It’s probably 10 times than it was a year ago,” he says.

THEFTS ON RISE

Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI) has seen a drastic spike in claims for catalytic converter thefts.

Last year, it received 34 claims. So far this year, 107 converter theft claims have been filed.

Saskatchewan business, Golden Mobility, has had five catalytic converters stolen in just three months.

Golden Mobility sells equipment such as walkers, scooters and accessible vehicles.

Owner Aaron Andre says last week, two catalytic converters were stolen from accessible busses used by a long-term care home.

“It’s super frustrating,” Andre says, standing by his fence that was cut open during the theft.

Andre has released surveillance footage on social media, that shows someone crawling under a vehicle and leaving with the converter.

UNDERGROUND MARKET EXISTS

Mark Riffel, owner of BN Metals Metal Recycling, says the converters are being sold on the black market since recyclers require ID.

He says sellers post ads on social media, meet up and do the sale in cash.

Riffel says the precious metals then are refined down, likely by another buyer.

Saskatoon Police Service (SPS) says it monitors social media for stolen property.

“At times, the item in question may align with an ongoing investigation where further follow-up is required,” SPS spokesperson Josh Grella told CTV News in an email.

So far this year SPS has had 135 reports of catalytic converter thefts — 56 occurred in June and July.