Effective catalytic-converter anti-theft etching program expands beyond Perimeter
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STEINBACH — A anti-theft program meant to help police catch catalytic-converter thieves has expanded southeast of Winnipeg.
New provincial legislation and increased law enforcement efforts have drastically reduced thefts in Winnipeg of the valuable auto parts sold to unscrupulous scrap dealers who remove precious metals.
The Scrap Metal Act, which went into effect in July, requires dealers must record transaction details, keep the records for two years and provide them to law enforcement at request. The act also prohibits cash transactions over $50.
Catalytic converters reduce harmful airborne pollutants released into the atmosphere. Winnipeg Police Service dealt with a skyrocketing number of thefts in the spring — the number reached a high of 353 in April, but plunged to just 19 in September.
A free Winnipeg Crime Stoppers program gives owners the opportunity to have their vehicle identification number engraved on converters, enabling police to charge people caught with etched parts with possession of stolen goods.
Steinbach RCMP also saw an increase in the thefts, Staff Sgt. Harold Laninga said, with about 50 vehicles targeted in the past year.
To date, 65 auto dealers and service centres in Winnipeg have etched more than 500 converters, Winnipeg Crime Stoppers president Paul Johnson told reporters Friday at Harvest Honda in Steinbach.
He was flanked by Justice Minister Kelvin Goertzen, who announced about $40,000 in cash for the local RCMP detachment to purchase engravers and heat-resistant paint for area garages and promote the program in the southeast area of the province.
The cash was pulled from Manitoba’s criminal property forfeiture fund.
Laninga said motorists taking their vehicles in for winter service and tire changeovers should ask auto shops if they can engrave the converter.
“It truly takes less than two minutes,” he said.
“Should your garage not have an engraver yet… contact the Steinbach RCMP and we will reach out to them.”
Harvest Honda owner Doug Kreutzer said a customer’s car and one of his company’s were targeted in the past six months.
“We have surveillance outside, we hand over all the surveillance of the dark, evening picture of a kid in a hoodie and a licence plate you can’t read — so the RCMP are very frustrated too,” he said, adding the dealership will distribute program information.
Goertzen highlighted the big drop in reported thefts as a sign the legislation and police efforts are working.
“This is not a ‘mission accomplished’ sign, but there were people a few months ago who said it was ‘mission impossible,’” he said.
Erik Pindera reports for the city desk, with a particular focus on crime and justice.