As part of the provincial government’s plan to address the significant increase in catalytic converter thefts, scrap metal recyclers in Manitoba will now have to follow strict regulations when buying and selling.
On Monday, the Scrap Metal Act (Bill 9) and its corresponding scrap metal regulation came into effect.
When the Act was initially introduced in December 2021, Manitoba Public Insurance told CBC there had been a 450 per cent increase in catalytic converter thefts between 2020 and 2021.
Buyers are now required to record details of every transaction involving scrap metal, to keep the records for two years and to provide them to law enforcement when asked.
“With everything, there is a balance. There is more of an onus placed on the scrap dealers … but it is with that in mind of ensuring that the public also has their goods protected,” Justice Minister Kelvin Goertzen told media at a Monday morning press conference.
This regulation applies to any used items made of aluminum, brass, bronze, copper, iron, lead, steel, stainless steel, tin or a prescribed metal or alloy.
Anyone wanting to sell restricted items containing precious metals, like catalytic converters, will now need to provide buyers with government identification, a photograph of their face, a description of their goods and details on how they acquired them.
A buyer will not be able to accept the materials unless that information is provided.
Buyers will also keep a more detailed record of the transaction including the value of the goods and a licence plate number from the seller’s car.
These records must be submitted to the scrap metal dealer’s local law enforcement agency within seven days.
The regulations prohibit cash transactions valued above $50.
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Last month, Mike Payment had his catalytic converter cut off his 2004 Honda Element while he was seeing Top Gun: Maverick with his wife at Winnipeg’s Kildonan Place.
When the couple came out of the theatre and started their car, they heard a rumbling they knew wasn’t right.
“Dread. That’s what we thought. Because we knew other people that had their [catalytic converters] stolen and we were just waiting for ours to get stolen,” Payment told CBC’s Up to Speed host Keisha Paul.
Payment said he filed an online police report and contacted Manitoba Public Insurance. When it was all said and done, he said the theft cost him about $575.
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Hearing about the new rules on Monday, Payment said they sound like a good start — but he thinks more still needs to be done to deter would-be buyers from taking stolen property.
“Is it going to stop the honest dealers from buying the stuff? Probably. Will it stop those that buy it because they can get away with it? It might not,” he said.
95 per cent drop in thefts since arrests: police
In June, Winnipeg police made three arrests after a four-month long investigation into catalytic converter thefts.
Police allege two of the suspects were stealing the car parts and taking them to a scrapyard in Springfield, Man., that was knowingly purchasing the stolen goods.
Staff Sgt. Josh Ewatski from the Winnipeg police says that since the arrests, reports of catalytic converter thefts have decreased by 95 per cent.
For several weeks, the number of reports has been in the single digits.
During a July 16 traffic stop, Winnipeg police seized five catalytic converters and made four more arrests.
Auto service shops offering engraving services
With funding from Criminal Property Forfeiture, Crimestoppers has launched a campaign with auto service centres who will engrave vehicle owner’s catalytic converters to deter thieves.
The last eight numbers of a vehicle’s serial number will be engraved, and then the converter will be painted with high visibility paint.
If an engraved converter is stolen and brought to a scrap metal buyer, it can be traced back to the car.
Currently 32 service centres in Winnipeg will offer to apply the theft deterrents while a car is being serviced.