As catalytic converter thefts impact increasing numbers of people, Senator John Marty (DFL-Roseville) is re-introducing legislation to prevent scrap metal dealers from buying catalytic converters from anyone other than an automobile repair shop, auto recycling business, or a vehicle owner that demonstrates proof of ownership.
Last year, Sen. Marty introduced legislation to prevent such thefts. Although he was not given a hearing on the legislation, he continued working on the issue, discussing it with law enforcement, businesses, legislative colleagues, and an ever-increasing number of victims. Now, he is trying again with legislation targeted at the thieves, Senate File 890. The House companion legislation will be chief authored by Rep. Ruth Richardson.
“Catalytic converter theft is difficult to address because there are no identifying marks or serial numbers on converters to link specific converters to specific cars,” Marty said. “The ease of removing converters is so great that thieves can strike even in parking lots and cars parked on the street in broad daylight. Police report finding cars with multiple used converters in the back seat, but cannot prove that the converters were stolen, so there is nothing they can do, and the ‘owner’ of those converters can go and sell them with no consequence.”
After multiple revisions, the Marty legislation is taking a more targeted approach, proposing a law that would:
· prohibit anyone other than a licensed scrap metal dealer from buying used converters.
· prohibit scrap dealers from buying catalytic converters from anyone other than a bona fide auto repair or auto recycling business. (individuals who have used converters removed from their cars would be able to sell only if they provide proof of legitimate removal.)
· make it unlawful for an individual to possess a used converter, not attached to a car, unless the owner has documentation of legitimate removal and ownership
(this would enable law enforcement to seize stolen converters, so victims of theft could work with police to show that the converters were stolen.)
· prohibit scrap dealers from paying cash for used converters.
Marty said, “No legislation will completely eliminate the problem. However, making it more difficult for thieves to transport and sell stolen catalytic converters will help. It’s time for the legislature to step up and prevent these crimes.”
Theft of catalytic converters from cars is a problem that few people were familiar with until recently, but converter thefts have multiplied during each of the last few years. In January, St. Paul reported more than twice as many converter thefts as they saw a year earlier.
The problem is growing because it is a quick way to obtain large amounts of cash. With a reciprocating saw, a thief can slip under a parked car and cut off a catalytic converter in a couple of minutes or less. The converters contain several precious metals, giving them a market value that usually reaches $200-300 from a scrap buyer. Unfortunately, for the car owner, replacement costs often exceed $2000-$3000.