Today, Senator John Marty (DFL-Roseville) offered a strong response to the problem of catalytic converter theft with an amendment that would make it a crime to possess a used catalytic converter that is not attached to a car, unless it is marked with the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) from the car it was attached to.
Catalytic converter theft is a huge nationwide problem that has been growing quickly due to high prices for precious metals in converters. It has been growing exponentially, doubling or tripling each of the last several years. The St. Paul Police Department has seen an average of about 6 converter thefts per day being reported – 600 thefts so far this year, just in the city of St. Paul.
For victims of theft, it can result in a $2000 – $3000 repair bill, and frequently a wait of 5 or 6 weeks to get a replacement part, making their car virtually unusable for more than a month.
With the strong public anger and frustration over the problem, Senator Marty expressed disappointment in the Republican majority’s unwillingness to even consider the proposal.
“I was denied a hearing last year, but continued working on the issue, discussing it with law enforcement, businesses, legislative colleagues, and an ever-increasing number of victims. This year I was again denied a hearing despite repeated requests for consideration. With no other option, I offered the bill on the Senate Floor as an amendment to the ‘Omnibus Commerce and Consumer Protection and Energy and Utilities’ bill, since this legislation amends Minnesota’s Commerce and Consumer Protection laws.”
“Again, the Senate majority they refused to consider the proposal, saying that it wasn’t ‘germane’ to the legislation, preventing any discussion or vote on the proposal. The Republican Senate leadership has given no path for consideration of this important legislation this year.”
Under the proposal, people who are legitimately removing converters from cars (auto salvage businesses, auto repair shops, etc.) could easily comply with the law, simply by writing the VIN on a converter when they remove it.
People who are stealing converters would be guilty of the possession crime if they are unmarked. And, if a thief puts a VIN number on the converter, law enforcement can find the owner and prove the theft if the number is accurate. If it is a fraudulent number, law enforcement can charge them with violating the possession law.
The catalytic converter legislation would also prohibit anyone except licensed scrap yards from buying used catalytic converters unless the converters were EPA compliant for use as a replacement auto part. The legislation would require the scrap yards to report the VIN numbers to law enforcement and prohibit cash purchases so that there is a paper trail to assist law enforcement.
“I am disappointed that another year will go by without a meaningful state response to this problem. Thousands of Minnesotans will be hit by converter theft before we next have a chance to address this crime.”