California is cracking down on the theft of catalytic converters by making it harder for thieves and brokers to sell them and increasing penalties for buyers.
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 1087 and Assembly Bill 1740 into law Friday to address the rise in thefts in two ways.
SB 1087, authored by state Senator Lena Gonzales, D-Long Beach, will make it illegal to buy a catalytic converter from anyone other than licensed dealers or sellers who can certify that they are the lawful owner of the device. AB 1740, authored by Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi, will require scrap-metal recyclers and junk dealers to keep detailed records on who they are buying catalytic converters from including the year, make and model of the vehicle from which the catalytic converter was removed as well as a copy of the vehicle title.
Recyclers will be subject to fines of at least $1,000 if they cannot provide the records or confirm that the person they are buying from is the lawful owner of the part.
“We’re going to get to the root cause, at least one of the root causes, in this crime. And that’s those brokers and those middlemen, who pay top dollar for stolen parts,” said Newson in an announcement Friday. “You take away the market for stolen goods, you can help cut down on stealing.”
Catalytic converters are emissions devices that help reduce air pollution in vehicles. They are sought after for the high-value metals they contain such as platinum, rhodium, palladium and iridium.
Thieves often saw the device off of a vehicle in a matter of minutes and resell them to junkyards or scrap metal recyclers for a few hundred dollars though the value varies depending on the car they are taken from. Replacing a stolen converter can cost thousands of dollars.
In Long Beach, catalytic converter thefts have been on the rise in recent years. According to Long Beach Police Department data obtained by the Signal Tribune in June, catalytic converter thefts increased 383% in 2021 compared to pre-pandemic levels.
From 2018 to 2019, 381 catalytic converters were stolen in Long Beach, according to the Tribune. In 2020, those numbers more than doubled going from 177 thefts to 565. Then in 2021, 854 catalytic converter thefts were reported to the LBPD—a 383% increase from 2019.
To help protect vehicle owners against theft, the LBPD often hosts Etch and Catch events where drivers can have their vehicle’s VIN or license plate number etched onto the catalytic converter of their vehicle. By doing so, police can easily identify stolen converters and deter thieves. The date of the next event has not yet been released though they are often held monthly.