‘Pretty brazen’ Thieves targeting vehicles for parts
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A skeleton of a truck sat on Nott Autocorp’s lot Monday.
Before the weekend, it was a brand new, fully functioning white Ram 1500. Sometime last Saturday or Sunday, thieves ransacked it for parts, according to dealership president Trevor Nott.
“It was all the fenders, the doors,” he said. “They started dissembling some of the interior. The hood. Everything. Virtually all the lights, you name it — they pretty much stripped it down to the bone.”
He estimates between $15,000 and $20,000 worth of goods was taken. The truck bed lay metres away; nearby, another Ram pick-up had its rims removed.
“We can count on one hand how many problems we’ve had,” Nott, who’s been in the business for 16 years, said. “But… this would now be our third case of theft in the last year.”
He said he upgraded his surveillance system after the last crime — a BMW was stolen, and audio and TV equipment were pulled from an RV.
“It was all the fenders, the doors. They started dissembling some of the interior. The hood. Everything. Virtually all the lights, you name it– they pretty much stripped it down to the bone.”
– Trevor Nott
Still, the recent truck dismembering wasn’t caught on his cameras. It was in the property’s overflow area, hidden by other vehicles. Neighbouring Enterprise Rent-A-Car — where Nott believes the thieves came through — has footage of a trailer loading up the parts, Nott said.
“I just think with COVID and the lockdown, I think the criminals are finding more time and creative ways to make an income,” he said.
So, he’s looking to hire a security firm to patrol his company during off hours. He’s put a call in with police, and he’s weighing whether to make an insurance claim.
“It becomes prohibitive to make a claim,” because insurance premiums and deductibles increase, Nott said. “We’re going to do the math on it all.”
At Boyce Auto Sales, theft has gotten worse over the past years, according to owner Rob Boyce.
His shop is roughly 1 km from Nott Autocorp. It’s been stolen from at least five times this year, Boyce said.
“We just got a camera system in, finally, but that’s not helping at all,” he said.
He estimates he’s lost $8,000 in petty theft this year, and another $25,000 in 2021.
“(Catalytic) converters is a common issue,” he said. “But now… they’ll rip taillights off, they’ll take tailgates off, they’ll take mirrors off… It’s gone above and beyond.”
Thieves stole a catalytic converter from Ride Time, a used car dealership near Selkirk Avenue, last week, according to general manager Andrew MacIver.
“That is becoming an increasing concern,” MacIver said. “You could have 100 cars outside, and they don’t look like anything happened until you start (one) and it sounds like an airplane’s about to take off.”
The Manitoba Motor Dealers Association, which represents 126 franchise new car dealers, has received many complaints of catalytic converter thefts. The part is an exhaust-system component which reduces noise and emissions.
“(It’s) because of the metals that are contained in them,” Geoff Sine, the association’s executive director, said of the thefts.
Platinum, rhodium and palladium are found in catalytic converters.
“We’re trying to work with our members and other partners — law enforcement, MPI and scrap dealers — to hopefully bring more awareness to it and close the availability to sell these parts,” Sine said.
He noted thieves are “pretty brazen” and will often steal regardless of video surveillance.
“We’ve heard of cases where, in broad daylight in a parkade, this material is being taken,” Sine said. “People are covering their faces and vehicles, so it’s difficult to identify who they are.”
The Winnipeg Police Service doesn’t specifically track crimes at dealerships. Instead, the reports join others in data sets tracking break and enters and thefts across the city.
“At the end of the day, I employ 10 people at very reasonable salaries, and now I have to balance out all this theft– how much longer can I keep doing it?”
– Rob Boyce
When a dealership reports theft, it’s forwarded to the WPS’s property crimes unit.
“If these offences are habitually occurring, the property crimes unit is certainly going to be aware of it,” said Const. Dani McKinnon. “That’s when they start to really kind of put things together, maybe looking for patterns.”
There’s a backlog in investigations and a “number of reports” regarding catalytic converters, she noted.
There were 1,620 catalytic converter thefts in 2021, not including December — up from 14 thefts in 2015.
Neither Nott, MacIver nor Boyce expressed confidence their perpetrators would be caught after they’d filed police reports.
“The pandemic has brought on a lot more petty crime, I feel,” MacIver said. “You don’t know what the solution is, short of hiring a 24-hour security person to stand watch on your lot.”
Rising gas prices and warmer weather could lead to more theft, including of fuel, MacIver said. It happened to Ride Time last winter when a hole was punched in the bottom of a gas tank.
“It basically ends up coming out of our pocket,” said Boyce.
The dealership owner said he often doesn’t make insurance claims because of deductibles and premiums rising.
“At the end of the day, I employ 10 people at very reasonable salaries, and now I have to balance out all this theft — how much longer can I keep doing it?” he said.
Suspicious vehicles show up on security camera footage at inconsistent times, he noted.
Gabby is a big fan of people, writing and learning. She graduated from Red River College’s Creative Communications program in the spring of 2020.
Updated on Tuesday, May 3, 2022 7:04 PM CDT: Adds files to photo credit