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Motion seeks tougher penalties for catalytic converter thefts

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Members of Calgary city council says stiffer penalties may be what it takes to curb catalytic converter thefts.

A group of councillors are set to propose changes to the penalties associated with the crime that authorities say has spiked in the past few years.

The notice of motion, from Couns. Peter Demong, Courtney Walcott, Andre Chabot, Evan Spencer, Jasmine Mian, Richard Pootmans and Raj Dhaliwal, calls catalytic converter thefts "a major issue" in the city, as well as other Canadian centres.

It states that while the Calgary Police Service does not have the ability to arrest anyone in possession of a disconnected catalytic converter, and scrap dealers must obtain and record identification from all of their customers, more needs to be done as a deterrent.

The motion is directing administration to amend Calgary's business licence bylaw and bring forward recommendations to "regulate any person or business in possession of a catalytic converter."

"Including establishing a fine amount that is an effective deterrent and is proportionate to the severity of the problem of a stolen catalytic converter," the city's council agenda states.

It also directs administration to bring forward other "strategies or programs" to cut down on thefts.

Demong says the issue is a huge problem for many people in Calgary, especially small businesses.

"A lot of these that are getting the real nastiness is a lot of the smaller businesses," he told CTV News Tuesday. "They have larger vehicles that it's easy to get in and take these catalytic converters.

"They're worth more for the larger vehicles than the smaller vehicles and it's a lot harder for a small business to take these kinds of hits."

The motion cited an example from the City of Leduc, which passed bylaw amendments last September.

According to that rule, anyone in possession of an unattached catalytic converter can be fined $1,000, unless they have a valid business licence for an automotive repair or supply business.

Anyone not covered under a licence but needs to be in possession of the parts can apply for a free permit from the RCMP.

The motion suggests looking at a similar fine – a penalty that would lead to a mandatory court appearance and the possibility of further punishment.

Police say the main motivation to steal catalytic converters is the precious metal contained within them.

Earlier this month, police introduced a partnership with Kal Tire offering car owners the chance to have their VIN etched onto the surface of their catalytic converter.

Authorities say when the parts are turned over to a scrap dealer, the business can use the information to determine if it's been stolen.

The city says it costs between $1,300 and $3,400 to replace a catalytic converter in a vehicle.

Between January and November 2022, police received 3,174 reports of stolen catalytic converters.

If approved by council, administration is expected to return with recommendations later this year.

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