California Passes Law to Make It Harder for Thieves to Steal and Sell Catalytic Converters

Catalytic converters are a frequent target for thieves due to the high-value materials inside. California has passed legislation to block the resale of stolen catalytic converters, making them less compelling to thieves.
California passes law to make it harder for thieves to steal and sell catalytic converters 6 photos
Photo: KHOU 11 via Youtube
Hundreds of stolen catalytic converters found at seven Texas homesHundreds of stolen catalytic converters found at seven Texas homesCatalytic Converter TheftCatalytic Converter TheftCatalytic Converter Theft
Catalytic converter theft has steadily increased throughout the U.S., with California registering more than 18,000 converters stolen in 2021. This was up from 14,500 in 2021 and only 1,300 in 2018, according to the background check company BeenVerified. Although a stolen converter can generate between $25 and $500 for thieves, it could cost a car owner as much as $3,000 to replace it. The catalytic converter is almost impossible to trace and relatively easy to saw off from a vehicle, which explains why it is so popular for criminal gangs.

The new policies introduced in California to combat catalytic converter theft is considered one of the most drastic measures in this field, likely to be followed by other states. The laws (Senate Bill 1087 and Assembly Bill 1740) will see increased penalties for buyers who fail to certify that a catalytic converter wasn’t stolen. This should limit thieves’ ability to find a buyer for the stolen parts.

Under the new laws, scrap metal recyclers and dealers must document how they buy catalytic converters and from whom. Only the legal owners and qualified sellers are allowed to sell the converters. The laws also require a traceable method of payment for catalytic converters. Besides that, the buyers must keep detailed records of the purchase, including information on the businesses selling the parts and the vehicles they were taken from.

“We’re going to get to the root cause, at least one of the root causes, in this crime. And that’s those brokers and those middlemen who pay top dollar for stolen parts. It will now be illegal in California to buy catalytic converters from anyone other than licensed auto dismantlers or dealers,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a video statement shared on Twitter. “You take away the market for stolen goods, you can help cut down on stealing.”

The legislation imposes a $1,000 fine for a first conviction and $2,000 for a second. There is also the additional penalty of a temporary suspension from operating as a recycler. It would be interesting to see whether the new legislation would effectively reduce catalytic converter theft. Surely other states are watching this closely and will probably adopt similar measures if this proves successful. Because otherwise, the thieves would just sell their stolen parts in states that allow it.
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About the author: Cristian Agatie
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After his childhood dream of becoming a "tractor operator" didn't pan out, Cristian turned to journalism, first in print and later moving to online media. His top interests are electric vehicles and new energy solutions.
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