Assemblymember Adam Gray’s bill aimed at reducing California’s nation-leading catalytic converter thefts is advancing with bipartisan support.
The legislation from the Merced Democrat would require car dealers to permanently mark the catalytic converter of new and used cars with the vehicle’s VIN.
“Once a thief gets away with your catalytic converter, there is often little law enforcement can do to prove a suspect committed the theft,” said Gray in a news release. “By requiring these parts to be marked, a detached catalytic converter can be traced back to its original vehicle and legal ownership can be established.
“If the marking on the catalytic converter is removed, then possession of that catalytic converter is a crime — which will serve as a significant deterrent for any black-market repair shop or recycler to take possession of the stolen part.”
According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, catalytic converter thefts nationwide have increased more than tenfold over the past three years. California leads the nation, accounting for more than 30% of all claims filed with State Farm insurance. The NICB reported 1,298 catalytic converter thefts in 2018, increasing to 3,389 in 2019, and 14,433 in 2020.
Four Toyotas Among the Most Targeted Vehicles
In California, the most frequently targeted vehicles are the Toyota Prius, Honda Element, Honda Accord, Ford Econoline, Honda CRV, Ford F-250, Toyota Tundra, Toyota Sequoia, Ford Excursion, and the Toyota Tacoma.
“Thieves typically flip catalytic converters for $50-$500 while victims can expect to pay anywhere from $1,000 to $4,000 to get their vehicle fixed,” said Gray. “Unless a thief is caught in the act red-handed, law enforcement officers have few resources to investigate this crime. Even when a suspect is arrested, many are never prosecuted.”
As to the reason behind the skyrocketing theft rate, Gray notes that the converters contain precious metals such as palladium, rhodium, and platinum. Thus, with prices for precious metals spiking, stealing the devices becomes more financially lucrative.
“Five years ago, an ounce of rhodium cost $850 but now sells for more than $18,000,” said Gray, who predicted that the war in Ukraine would fuel another price increase in precious metals.
David Glawe, president and CEO of NICB, said that there “is a clear connection between times of crisis, limited resources, and disruption of the supply chain that drives investors towards these precious metals.”
Steven Choi, an Orange County Republican, co-authored AB 2682, which unanimously passed the Assembly Transportation Committee on April 18.
Tips to Prevent Thefts
To prevent thefts, the NICB recommends that vehicle owners:
— Install a catalytic converter anti-theft device. These are available from various manufacturers.
— Park fleet vehicles in an enclosed and secured area that is well lit, locked, and alarmed.
— Park personal vehicles in a garage. If not possible and vehicles must be parked in a driveway, consider installing motion sensor security lights.
— Always lock your vehicle and set the alarm.