Addabbo: Legislation to address catalytic converter theft approved by State Legislature

Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. and his state colleagues approved legislation (S.9428/A.1940) to impose restrictions on the purchase, sale, and possession of catalytic converters by vehicle dismantlers, scrap processors, and others.

“The ease of removing these devices from vehicles and the valuable precious metals used in catalytic converters has made this particular item a prime target for thieves,” Addabbo said. “This legislation, which for me is a direct result of constituent complaints, will ensure law enforcement has the necessary tools to thoroughly investigate the theft of this vital equipment which serves to protect the environment, while also ensuring individuals caught stealing will face appropriate consequences,” added Addabbo.

Parking lots, auto dealerships, auto repair shops, and even residential driveways are prime targets for thieves. This legislation will greatly deter thieves from stealing catalytic converters by requiring vehicle dismantlers and scrap processors to keep a paper trail and information on the seller of these devices. Documentation must be filed within 60 days with a failure to do so resulting in increased fines, not to exceed double the value of the gain from any illegal sale. New motor vehicle dealers and other qualified dealers will also be required to stock catalytic converter etching kits for new motor vehicles at a cost no higher than the value of the etching kit.

Catalytic converters are exhaust emission control devices that reduce toxic gases and pollutants in exhaust gas from an internal combustion engine into less-toxic pollutants. They have been installed in vehicles since the 1970s and all vehicles are required by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to have a catalytic converter. Unfortunately, these devices are not stamped with identifiers which makes cases of theft harder to solve.

The external location and the use of valuable precious metals including platinum, palladium, and rhodium, make these devices a target for thieves. Rates of catalytic converter thefts have become more common since 2000 and particularly in 2020 due to the high metal prices. Bolt-on converters are especially easy to remove, but welded-on devices are easily cut off with a theft taking two minutes or less. The tools used to remove a catalytic converter can damage other components of the vehicle, such as the alternator, wiring, or fuel lines, which can lead to dangerous consequences. Catalytic converters can cost thousands of dollars to replace and the amount increases if further damage was done to the vehicle due to theft.

After passing the Senate and Assembly, the bill awaits final approval by the Governor. These new restrictions and record-keeping requirements for catalytic converters would take effect 180 days after being signed into law.