One consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic was its correlation with local crime statistics. With so many people confined to their homes in 2020 and 2021, there was a corresponding drop in reported thefts, both in Airdrie and outside the city.
But as restrictions were lifted and people began to expand their radiuses once again in 2022, thefts understandably crept back up. That reality was reflected in Airdrie RCMP's annual crime gauge, presented during a rural crime town hall on Monday night. According to that presentation, thefts essentially returned to pre-pandemic numbers in 2022.
One of the driving factors of the uptick in theft last year – particularly in the "theft under $5,000" category, which saw a 71 per cent increase – was a proliferation in the number of catalytic converter thefts. Our newsroom is aware of this particularly popular crime, as we occasionally receive press releases from RCMP (and calls from readers) about the issue.
Catalytic converters by themselves are not useful to thieves. (If you're not sure their function, catalytic converters are an exhaust emission control device on a vehicle that converts exhaust into less-toxic pollutants by catalyzing a redox reaction). It's the metals inside them that are valuable, which is why thieves target them to sell to metal scrap dealers.
Airdrie RCMP is aware of the increased number of catalytic converter thefts, and last year, launched a pilot program to help reduce those reports. As part of the pilot, Airdrie RCMP provides participating mechanic and automotive shops in Airdrie with engravers. These businesses can then offer customers the option of etching their vehicle’s identification number (VIN) on the converter at no expense when servicing a vehicle. That way, if the catalytic converter is stolen and then recovered, it can be linked back to the original vehicle.
It's a solid enough strategy. But as mentioned during this week's town hall, it's incredibly difficult to catch catalytic converter thieves in the act. That is why officers are always stressing to citizens to report these thefts when they occur, so they can, at the very least, track emerging crime trends and create a database of perpetrators.