After the Catalyst is stolen for the second time, RCMP suggests buying better cameras

After the catalytic converter was stolen from one of Moncton Headstart's buses on Wednesday, the charity is struggling to get children and families to the center for programming and healthy meals.  (Gilles Landry/CBC - photo credit)

After the catalytic converter was stolen from one of Moncton Headstart’s buses on Wednesday, the charity is struggling to get children and families to the center for programming and healthy meals. (Gilles Landry/CBC – photo credit)

Caroline Donelle was walking into work on Wednesday morning when she received a call that her Moncton Headstart bus had been attacked by thieves for the second time in just over a year.

“Frustration is putting it mildly,” the charity’s chief executive said after hearing that their bus, used to pick up children and families participating in early intervention programs, was out of service.

It was December 2021 when catalytic converters were stolen from both Moncton Headstart buses for the first time.

After that, Donelle said, they started parking the buses in front of the building next to the very busy intersection of Mountain Road and Mapleton Road, “so they were pretty clear and obvious.”

Vanessa Blanch/CBC

Vanessa Blanch/CBC

But surveillance camera footage shows a man in a hoodie sliding under the vehicle at 3:30 a.m. Wednesday and sliding out and disappearing less than a minute later.

“It was so quick,” Donelle said. “So there’s a guy, this thief – who’s done this many, many times before – he came armed with the right tools, slipped under the bus, cut off the catalytic converter and disappeared into the night.”

Why does this keep happening?

In November 2022, Public Safety Secretary Kris Austin introduced changes to the Salvage Dealers Licensing Act intended to make it more difficult to sell stolen catalytic converters and other commonly stolen goods such as copper, lead lightning and copper wire.

The changes would double fines for non-compliant scrap dealers and would ban scrap dealers from paying cash for catalytic converters or other stolen items.

Austin said in a statement he expects the new rules “to go into effect in the coming weeks.”

“Officials from the Departments of Justice and Security regularly inspect scrap dealers,” he wrote. “It is a government and police priority and I know that every police force is doing everything in their power to investigate every case.”

CBC News contacted the RCMP to ask about catalysts and what is being done to prevent and investigate these thefts, but no one has responded.

Donelle said when she reported the latest theft, police suggested she get better surveillance cameras, which would allow RCMP to identify the thief’s face. She is not sure if this is a solution to the problem.

“You know, most thieves try to keep their face out of sight.”

The insurance industry tries to prevent theft

Donelle has wondered, “Why does this keep happening” and has concluded that someone is clearly still buying the stolen parts.

“Otherwise, what motivation would this guy have for scouring the neighborhood at 3:30 a.m. with his backpack full of tools?”

Donelle is now considering other deterrents to prevent thieves from targeting her buses again.

Someone suggested the charity get new catalytic converters marked ‘Property of Moncton Headstart’ in the hope that this would give a would-be thief – or the person buying the stolen part – pause, but Donelle admits that this is probably “magical thinking”.

Submitted by Caroline Donnell

Submitted by Caroline Donnell

A spokesman for the Équité Association, which works with the Insurance Bureau of Canada to prevent theft, says the “significant increase” in catalytic converter thefts has occurred as the metals they contain have risen in price.

“The value of palladium, rhodium and platinum, all contained in a catalyst, continues to surpass the value of gold,” said Bryan Gast.

Gast said in a statement scrap dealers are paying between $50 and $250 for the part.

The Équité Association has partnered with the Montreal Police Department to test a program that would engrave unique identification numbers on catalytic converters, making the part easily identifiable through a database.

Gast said scrap dealers in British Columbia are required to report purchases of all catalytic converters, including information about the seller, to the police.

The local workshop offers help

Donelle is frustrated that her bus will be off the road for 10 to 12 days and said Moncton Headstart doesn’t have the money for extra security, a garage or a fence to lock up its buses.

She says replacing a catalytic converter on a bus like hers would normally cost between $2,500 and $3,000, but JP’s Dieppe garage has offered to donate the work, bringing the price down to around $1,000.

“We’re a charity, so I’m always trying to find money to fix stuff,” she said.

Submitted by Debbie McInnis

Submitted by Debbie McInnis

Most troubling for Donelle is the fact that children and families will be hurt if they are not transported to the early intervention programs offered each day at Moncton Headstart.

“We pick the kids up from home every morning,” she says. “We give them a hearty, healthy breakfast. They get a hearty, healthy lunch…these are the two most important meals they’ll get throughout the day. It worries me a lot that we can’t bring the kids in.”


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