Newsom signs bills to curb catalytic converter theft

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Governor Gavin Newsom on Sunday signed two bills aimed at making it harder and less profitable to steal catalytic converters.

The legislation, drafted by two Southern California lawmakers, prohibits recyclers and dealers from buying used catalytic converters from anyone except licensed auto dismantlers, dealers or owners of the vehicles. It also requires more detailed records of transactions involving catalytic converters, making it easier to track stolen devices.

Catalytic converters are part of a vehicle’s exhaust system. They contain valuable minerals like platinum, rhodium and palladium which convert toxic gases and pollutants into less harmful emissions. Emission control device thefts have skyrocketed in recent years, reaching as high as 1,215%, according to a study by Car Fax, a company that tracks vehicle history.

“We are going to get to the root cause, at least one of the root causes of this crime – and it is these brokers and middlemen who are paying the highest price for stolen coins,” Newsom said in a video statement. “It will now be illegal to buy catalytic converters from anyone other than dismantlers or licensed car dealers.”

Californians reported the theft of more than 18,000 catalytic converters in 2021, according to Been Verified, a criminal background check company — and anecdotal reports indicate thefts continued to rise in 2022.

A stolen catalytic converter can net metal recyclers between $50 and $500, according to Metro Mile, an auto insurance company. But replacing a stolen converter can cost thousands of dollars.

Reports of stolen catalytic converters have flooded social media and encouraged many who have experienced theft – or want to avoid it – to install rebar cages or metal shields or burn their vehicle code into converters. But thefts continue to be commonplace.

The new laws are similar, each restricting who recyclers can purchase used catalytic converters from. One, written by Sen. Lena Gonzalez, D-Long Beach, requires a recycler to keep detailed information about the origin of the catalytic converter, take a photo or video of the seller, and pay by check — sent three days later. the sale. It also limits sales to auto dismantlers, auto repair companies or owners of verified vehicles.

The other law, drafted by Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, D-Torrance, requires information about the vehicle each catalytic converter originated from to be recorded and a copy of the title. Descriptions of each converter, including identifying information, should be kept so that they can be matched with the recycler’s inventory. The bill would allow purchases only from commercial businesses.

Newsom hopes the new laws will make selling catalytic converters less lucrative and more difficult.

“You take the market away from stolen goods, you can help reduce theft,” he said.

Michael Cabanatuan (he/him) is a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: mcabanatuan@sfchronicle.com Twitter:@ctuan

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