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Catalytic converter thefts complicating ongoing auto parts shortage

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The ongoing parts shortage hitting the auto industry is becoming more complicated due to thieves who are going after key parts of cars like catalytic converters.

It could be adding to the delays to get the right parts in for repairs, as well as driving up the price.

A Kitchener business said he was the target of a catalytic converter theft on Sept. 21. Essential Image president Daniel Tuka recalled the moment he knew something was wrong with one of his company vehicles.

“My employee came in and started the truck, you could hear the rumbling coming from underneath it and we were shocked like, 'is there a hole in the muffler or something?’” Tuka said.

He decided to look underneath and quickly noticed it wasn’t the muffler that was the issue but instead, an entire catalytic converter was missing.

“They had completely sawed everything off underneath it,” Tuka explained. “I felt very violated.”

The catalytic converter was replaced, but not before he was faced with a financial setback and a delay to get it fixed.

“My vehicle cost nearly $5,000 to repair. And if you have a fleet of trucks it can be compounded even worse,” he said. “The materials and things like that are not readily available so we waited on parts and stuff like that.”

Waterloo regional police data shows 634 catalytic converter thefts and attempts between Jan. 1 to Oct. 7 last year. In 2022 during that same timeframe, there have been 237.

While it appears to be happening less often, people are still being targeted and for some it could be happening more than once.

Tuka no longer has the security footage from the night of Sept. 21 when the first incident happened. But when CTV News went to interview Tuka at his office, he was scrolling through footage and realized the same person may have made another attempt at stealing parts on a different truck.

“This is the first time seeing he came back the following night,” said Tuka, as he watched security footage from the overnight hours of Sept. 22.

He believed the person in the footage was wearing the same clothing and backpack as the suspect from the previous night. Tuka said on Sept. 22 the person in the security footage left damage to a vehicle but did not leave with a catalytic converter. 

With no way to keep thieves from coming on the property, Tuka said his biggest worry is that they’ll keep coming back.

“Once they strike once, they know you're going to be having someone repair it and they possibly will be coming back into our neighbourhood again,” Tuka said.

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