Lisa MacIntyre was backing a customer’s truck into her shop before she learned a part had been stolen from it.
The first thing she noticed is it was much louder than when she had looked it over the day before. Then, when the truck was hoisted up, she noticed the big gaping hole near its exhaust system – right where the catalytic converter was supposed to be.
“You could tell that it was cut,” she said.
MacIntyre’s business, Her Man’s Shop in Morell, is one of many auto shops that has had converters stolen from on-site vehicles since at least late November. While The Guardian spoke with a few across Kings County, the RCMP’s investigation is Islandwide, Staff Sgt. Darryl McMullin said.
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Catalytic converters reduce the level of emissions caused by a vehicle’s exhaust, McMullin said.
“There’s a lucrative market for converters based on the metals contained in them.”
Some of those metals are platinum, palladium, and rhodium.
Surveillance footage showed a few individuals on MacIntyre’s site at about 7:30 p.m. the night before she discovered the theft.
“And we’re right on the main highway, so it just seemed pretty bold.”
Out of the 10 to 15 vehicles on her site at the time, two trucks were hit.
“The ones that they took were very easily accessible,” MacIntyre said. “They’d never get through it that quickly with a hacksaw.”
Kevin Burke, owner of K Burke’s Automotive Repair in Souris, figures the group that hit his shop would have had to use cordless power tools. One morning he happened to notice a vehicle’s exhaust hanging lower than usual.
For the thieves, extracting a converter was likely a 10-minute job, he said.
“They know what they’re going for,” he said. “Quick and easy cash for them, I guess.”
McMullin, who’s with the Kings District RCMP, said the converters can sell anywhere from $500 to $1,200.
“And so you have more damage done to the vehicle as well.”
Many of the vehicles being hit belong to customers, meaning any damage done is at the expense of the business.
“So, we’ll have to replace it for the customer,” Burke said. “I don’t know if our insurance covers it or not.”
“I don’t think we’re dealing with 20-30 different people here. I think it’s a tight-knit group that’s going around.”
Staff Sgt. Darryl McMullin
Jason Docherty, owner of Docherty’s Auto Service in Montague, had eight vehicles hit over the Christmas holidays. Luckily, he considered many of them to be decommissioned.
“But they’re all still customer’s vehicles.”
He learned of the theft after seeing all four tires removed from one of the vehicles. Another one had the exhaust manifold removed as well.
“If they would have been vehicles that were going back on the road it’d be a substantial loss.”
McMullin notes the RCMP’s investigation has seen significant progress and results across all three counties, which he hopes will be made public soon. He couldn’t necessarily speak to whether the thefts were all connected because he’s not spearheading the investigation, he said.
“But I don’t think we’re dealing with 20 to 30 different people here. I think it’s a tight-knit group that’s going around.”
Daniel Brown is a local journalism initiative reporter, a position funded by the federal government.