Catalytic Converter Thieves Will Find California and New York Tougher with New Laws in Place

catalytic converter
Catalytic Converter Thieves Face California WrathMichael Simari - Car and Driver

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  • California's governor signed legislation into effect today that will make it harder for catalytic-converter thieves to get away with selling them, the Los Angeles Times reported.

  • The new law will require sellers of the valuable anti-smog equipment to prove they came by it legally or face stringent penalties.

  • The buyers—generally scrap-metal recyclers or dealers—will also have to keep and show records of where they're getting catalytic converters.

UPDATE 10/19/22: The governor of New York has signed legislation that restricts car dismantling firms and scrapyards in the way they buy, sell, and stockpile catalytic converters. Every 60 days, businesses are now required to report how many catalytic converters they have received and show the records. New-vehicle dealers are now also required to offer serial number etching kits to customers, which must be sold at cost.

Governor Gavin Newsom of California today signed into effect a law that will impose strict penalties on people who illegally buy and sell catalytic converters. The anti-pollution devices are a frequent target for saw-and-grab thieves, with more than 18,026 reported stolen in California alone in 2021. The Los Angeles Times reported that the new rules originated with a pair of bills, one in the California State Senate and one in the state's Assembly. The legislation attaches a $1000 fine to a first conviction and $2000 for a second. The law would allow the additional penalty of a temporary suspension from operating as a recycler. Among the records required will be a written agreement with the seller, records of the amount paid and number of catalytic converters purchased, and descriptive information such as unique ID numbers or VINs etched into the parts. Recyclers would need to keep the records for at least two years.

As Car and Driver reported earlier this year, popular car models are the most frequent targets of catalytic converter theft, including the Chevrolet Silverado and Ford F-series pickups, the Honda Accord and CR-V, and the Toyota Camry and Prius. The State Farm insurance company reported in mid-2021 that catalytic converter theft grew almost 293 percent nationwide during the year after making an initial leap as the COVID-19 pandemic got underway. The insurer gave the number-one ranking to California, where more than 30 percent of State Farm insurance claims for the thefts originated in 2021. Texas, Minnesota, Washington, and Illinois rounded out the top five, but the problem is nationwide.

Gov. Newsom appeared on video via social media today, trumpeting the new protection and explaining to Californians that a catalytic converter is "part of that exhaust system on your car, and it's full of valuable materials that thieves can resell." Under the new pair of laws, only licensed resellers with detailed records will be allowed to buy and sell catalytic converters.

Of course, there will always be unscrupulous buyers and sellers already figuring out a way around the regulations, but other states will be likely to watch the situation in California with interest and possibly pass their own stricter laws. As of this summer, the NICB said, more than 150 pieces of legislation were already in the works around the U.S.

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