OTTAWA -- Ottawa police are warning drivers to park their vehicles in their garages or in well-lit areas after a spike in the number of thefts of catalytic converters.

“Since the beginning of 2021, we have seen a consistent surge in thefts of catalytic converters. In the east end, there have been about 19 reports of stolen catalytic converters,” says Cst. Mike Cudrasov with the Ottawa Police Service.

Police say since Jan. 1, 2021, there have been 28 incidents of catalytic converter thefts in the west end, with 31 vehicles affected.

Mechanic Al Saikaley says a customer came in late last week with something wrong with his Hyundai. Saikaley knew by the sound the vehicle was making that something was wrong. 

“We brought in the car in, put it in the air and, sure enough, someone had stolen the catalytic converter right off the car.”

Every vehicle has a catalytic converter. It helps reduce emissions. Saikaley says thieves are stripping the converters and selling them on the black market because of their precious metals. 

The price of precious metals is rising. According to MONEX precious metal prices, platinum is up to nearly $1,300 USD per ounce, palladium is up even more to about $2,400 USD per ounce. 

Bryan Gust is the National Director of Investigative Services with the Insurance Bureau of Canada. He calls the theft of catalytic converters “a huge problem.” He says he is seeing people putting in claims for the stolen part across Canada. 

“Some people go to body shops and have the catalytic converter welded so its not so easy to take it off,” Gust said.

Police also reminding residents to report a theft when it happens.