An Edmonton mother and daughter have been awarded $25,000 for their idea to help deter increasing catalytic converter thefts.
In August, the Edmonton Police Service (EPS) in partnership with the Edmonton Police Foundation (EPF) launched the Catalytic Converter Challenge with $50,000 in prize money for new ideas and technological innovations from the public to help solve catalytic converter thefts.
There were 210 entries from around the world, and six were shortlisted and judged by a panel of EPS members, EPF board members, and industry experts on the viability of the solution; cost of the solution to deploy; the creativity of the solution; and scalability of the solution.
On Friday, Mavis Shaw and Tamara Dolinsky, who created Foilem Fence after Dolinksy fell victim to a catalytic converter theft in June, were awarded the first-place prize of $25,000.
The product, which is patent-pending, is a fence that prevents people from getting under the vehicle but it is also very visible in order to deter thieves.
“The insurance adjuster that I was speaking with, he warned me that it would likely happen again because they knew where my car was and it was easy for them. It was just a crime of opportunity,” said Dolinksy. “So, Mom and I started thinking about what we could do to prevent that from happening.”
The pair had four goals in mind: to create something visible and deter someone from trying to steal, something that would physically prevent them from getting under the car, as well as being easy to use and affordable.
“Mom came up with the idea for the Foilem Fence,” Dolinsky said. “We were able to have it built and I have been using it since I got my car back from being repaired, and it’s fine and nobody’s touched the car.”
Ashif Mawji, chair of the EPF, said the solution that came in second place and was awarded $15,000 was King Strap, out of Edmonton, which essentially is a harnessing device that goes around the converter.
In third place and awarded $10,000 was Catalytic Converter DNA, a company based out of Florida that created a solution that etches a VIN to the catalytic converter so it is easily identifiable.
Police said there has been a 25 per cent increase in reported thefts from 2021 to 2022 and in the first two weeks of 2023, there were 130 thefts citywide, nearly double the three-year average of 74 in the same time frame.
The increasing number of thefts appears to follow the increasing value of precious metals such as rhodium, palladium, and platinum found within catalytic converters, that can be sold and recycled for profit.
In addition to the Catalytic Converter Challenge, EPS is also speaking with local auto service centres on additional measures such as VIN etching that can be done affordably, and lobbying various levels of government to further tighten the laws regarding scrap-metal recycling and increase the penalties associated with illegal activities.