Seeking to put a dent in the theft of catalytic converters and calling on state lawmakers to follow their lead, the St. Paul City Council on Wednesday approved an amendment to the ordinance that makes it a crime to transport a converter without proof of property.
“I wholeheartedly support this,” said board member Chris Tolbert. “I’ve spoken to so many constituents who have not only had their catalytic converter stolen, but had it stolen multiple times. This highlights the need for the state to act. … It’s not just a St. Paul problem. This is a problem that the entire metro area is facing right now.
St. Paul police said without such a law on the books, they were unable to charge robbery suspects, even when arresting a driver with multiple converters and sawing equipment. Indeed, it is difficult to trace the materials to a specific victim, and suspects may simply state that they are transporting goods for a friend or family member.
Thefts have skyrocketed as supply chain shortages increase demand for precious metals in converters, helping to reduce vehicle emissions.
Last year, St. Paul police listed 1,855 thefts of catalytic converters through mid-December, or more than five thefts a day. This represents a total loss of around $3 million, and five times the 345 thefts reported in 2019.
The council voted 6-0 to approve the new order, which expands on a May 2020 order that makes the sale or purchase of aftermarket catalytic converters by unlicensed dealers a misdemeanor-level offense. Auto repair garages are exempt. Council member Dai Thao was absent on Wednesday.
“There’s no reason anyone should ever be in possession of a loose catalytic converter, especially one that’s been sawn off with a Sawzall,” Council Chairperson Amy Brendmoen said. “City parks and facilities have been impacted, as have car dealerships. We need help from the state to look at this on a more holistic level and help us stop market demand. »