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Suspected 'cat' burglar stopped in tracks by North Van RCMP

Police stopped a suspect spotted on his back underneath a parked van at 3 a.m.
catalytic converter
Police arrested a suspect allegedly in the act of cutting a catalytic converter off a parked van in North Vancouver.

A ‘cat’ burglar caught prowling underneath a parked minivan at 3 a.m. was stopped in his tracks by an RCMP officer in North Vancouver.

In the early hours of Tuesday morning, the officer was on a routine patrol in a commercial area when he spied a suspect on his back, underneath an unoccupied minivan.

The police officer noticed also that the man had left his car running beside him, with the driver’s side door open. As the officer approached, the suspect attempted to make a quick getaway, but was quickly stopped and arrested, said Staff Sgt. Doug Trousdell, spokesman for the North Vancouver RCMP.

Further investigation revealed multiple angle grinders and cut catalytic converters in the suspect’s vehicle, said Trousdell.

The police officer noted the minivan where the suspect had first been spotted also had a partially cut catalytic converter.

Trousdell said there were several reported thefts of catalytic converters that night in a mix of residential and commercial areas of North Vancouver, from Lower Lonsdale to the Lower Lynn/Main Street area.

Trousdell said police are suspicious the thefts may all be linked, but added officers are still collecting evidence.

Several catalytic converters were recovered from the suspect’s vehicle, and police are working to match the recovered catalytic converters to the vehicles that were damaged.

“We are still encouraging anyone who might discover a missing catalytic converter to report to the police, as we haven’t yet identified all of the cats that were recovered,” said Trousdell.

Last month, police on the North Shore issued a warning after 12 thefts of catalytic converters in West Vancouver and 76 "cat" thefts in North Vancouver were reported to the end of May this year.

Every vehicle has a catalytic converter as part of the exhaust system in its underbelly. They are used to mitigate the harmful pollutants that the engine emits, but they contain precious metals that some unscrupulous scrap metal dealers will pay money for. Buying a new one will cost about $200, but the labour for installation as well as insurance deductibles can substantially increase the cost following a theft. 

“A stolen catalytic converter causes a lot of expense and aggravation for the owner of the vehicle, but more importantly, when a thief cuts away a piece of a vehicle, there is a real risk of making the vehicle unsafe. The unsuspecting owner might start driving, not knowing their fuel line or brakes have been compromised,” said Trousdell.

The best way to keep your cat where it belongs, say police, is to park your vehicle in a garage whenever possible. If that’s not an option, try to park in a well-lit area and use motion sensing exterior house lights if you park in the driveway.

Anyone who thinks they may have witnessed a catalytic converter theft, or who may have information about someone committing these thefts, is asked to call the North Vancouver RCMP at (604) 985-1311 or Metro Vancouver Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477, online or via mobile phone app.

In 2016, a North Vancouver provincial court judge handed down a nine-month jail sentence to a Surrey man after he pleaded guilty to theft of catalytic converters. The Crown said he had been staking out victims on the North Shore and eventually sold 66 catalytic converters to a scrap dealer in Abbotsford.