New law ups catalytic converter theft penalties

·2 min read

Sep. 23—HIGH POINT — A new statute will give law enforcement and the court system more options to try to counter the tide of catalytic converter thefts from vehicles.

Earlier this month, Gov. Roy Cooper signed Senate Bill 99, which passed the N.C. General Assembly unanimously. The law, which takes effect Dec. 1, makes catalytic converter thefts a Class I felony and establishes new requirements for businesses buying used catalytic converters to make sure the seller is a legitimate vendor or provider.

One of the primary cosponsors of the bill was Sen. Dave Craven, R-Randolph, whose district covers southern High Point. Craven told The High Point Enterprise that he filed Senate Bill 99 at the request of law enforcement.

The new law will make it easier to hold people accountable in catalytic converter theft cases, Capt. Matt Truitt of the High Point Police Department said.

Through Tuesday the police had received 330 reports of catalytic converter thefts this year compared to 26 for the same period in 2020.

A catalytic converter reduces pollutants in exhaust gas. When removed from a vehicle, the exhaust system of the car or truck will make loud, intrusive noises and won't operate efficiently.

The catalytic converter has become popular with thieves because of the resale value of precious metals within the device — platinum, palladium and rhodium. At a scrap yard or on the black market for auto parts supplies, a catalytic converter can fetch from $100 to $500, depending on the type and size.

In High Point, catalytic converter thieves frequently target vehicles at businesses, nonprofit agencies and churches. Truitt said it takes about 10 minutes for thieves to remove the catalytic converter from a muffler system.

The new law sets standards for businesses buying catalytic converters to track the identity of sellers and ensure the sales are legitimate, Truitt said.

"The seller has to show ID, and it's up to the buyers to ensure the ID is valid," he said.

The new law also enhances the record-keeping required by businesses dealing in used catalytic converters. One section of the four-page law requires a new electronic record system be established and maintained by metals recyclers.

"If the information is not there as it should be, the documentation is not correct, law enforcement would be able to obtain charges," Truitt said. "When someone shows up with 25 catalytic converters, they're not a legitimate operation."

pjohnson@hpenews.com — 336-888-3528 — @HPEpaul

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