A Winnipeg mayoral candidate is talking about crime this week — but not as the basis of any new policies or promises.
Rana Bokhari filed a police report on Monday after catalytic converters were removed from the motorhome she uses as a mobile campaign office.
The vehicle was parked outside Bokhari’s residence in Peguis, a newer neighbourhood in Transcona. Bokhari said the campaign volunteer who drives the recreational vehicle discovered the theft on Monday morning.
“When our volunteer came to drive it out, it was doing something off,” she said. “He went to look under the RV and then he saw that the converters were sawed off.”
Catalytic converter theft is common. The devices, which convert pollutants in exhaust into less toxic substances, contain valuable precious metals.
Manitoba Public Insurance says thefts of these devices more than quadrupled between 2020 and 2021, rising from just over 400 in 2020 to more than 2,200 in 2021. During the first six months of 2022, 1,355 catalytic converters were reported stolen, said Kristy Rydz, a spokesperson for the Crown corporation.
The scale of the thefts led the Winnipeg Police Service to investigate the purchase of stolen converters by a Springfield, Man., scrap dealer.
The provincial government also brought in new rules governing scrap-metal dealers. They are now required to record details of every transaction involving scrap metal, must keep these records for two years and also provide them to police if they’re requested.
Bokhari, a lawyer and former Manitoba Liberal Party leader, said these moves are good first steps. She said the thefts won’t stop until significant progress is made to reduce poverty and addictions in Winnipeg.
“There’s a segment of this city that is literally struggling,” she said. “When people are in poverty, when people are in addiction situations, when people are dealing with mental health crises, what do we think is going to happen?”
Bokhari also said Winnipeg needs a converter-theft task force akin to the car-theft task force that effectively drove down stolen vehicle rates two decades ago.
“The answer to this is not more policing,” she said. “There’s no amount of police standing here today that would have [prevented] this from happening.”
Bokhari said her campaign office will be stuck in neutral until she can locate replacement parts. She said she is out a considerable fundraising investment but acknowledged these sorts of thefts are more difficult on people who use their cars for their full-time jobs.
She is one of 14 people running to be Winnipeg’s next mayor. The other candidates are Idris Adelakun, Chris Clacio, Scott Gillingham, Kevin Klein, Shaun Loney, Jenny Motkaluk, Glen Murray, Robert-Falcon Ouellette, Jessica Peebles, Rick Shone, Govind Thawani, Desmond Thomas and Don Woodstock.
Candidates must complete the nominations process in September in order to appear on the Oct. 26 ballot.