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California is a hot spot for catalytic converter theft. Will the new law make a difference?

grace gedaikalmatters

Beams of light twinkled beneath Isaac Agyeman’s 2009 Prius, parked outside his home in Temecula early one morning in August. One is located under the hatchback, another of hers next to it, and a third nearby. After a few mechanical grunts and a quick scoot from under the car, all three rush off.

Agyeman’s catalytic converter, which cleans the car’s exhaust, reduces toxicity and contains precious metals, was stolen for the second time. This time I captured the situation on camera.

“I was upset. I was really disappointed,” he said. He filed a police report, sent footage, and called his insurance company. Best of all, it was his birthday.

Agyeman paid $500 for the repair and the rest was covered by his insurance. He spent an additional $150 to install a protective gate on the converter, hoping to deter future thieves, and an upgraded home he spent $6,000 to $8,000 on the security system. he estimates. As of September, he said he had yet to hear anything from the police.

Catalytic converter thefts have surged nationwide in recent years, from 1,298 in 2018 to 52,206 in 2021, according to claims data from the National Insurance Crime Service. The agency claims member companies have sampled data to identify trends in catalytic converter thefts, and a spokesperson wrote in a statement that the numbers don’t represent all thefts.

California is not invincible.

Nationally, 37% of the catalytic converter theft claims tracked by the agency in 2021 were in the Golden State. This is a disproportionate percentage, even considering California’s large population.

about 1,600 stolen every month According to a 2021 presentation by the California Department of Auto Repair, claims data provided by the AAA Automobile Club of Southern California shows Honda and Toyota, especially older Prius, being targeted most frequently. According to the National Insurance and Crime Service, hybrids have he two converters and tend to have less wear on parts, making them more valuable. The thief sells converters that he can remove in minutes with an electric saw for $50 to $250 for him, the agency said in a statement.

Catalytic converter theft is difficult to investigate

People across the state are suffering.

The police recovered this summer 112 converted, 28 arrested in the Inland Empire. In September, four San Francisco Police Department vehicles with signs freed from the converter.

In April, staff at Yolo Food Bank in Woodland discovered that a catalytic converter had been stolen from a Prius they use for small deliveries. Staff used their cars to deliver food while the Prius was out of order, said Maria Segobiano, the food bank’s director of marketing communications.

The organization paid about $400 for shields to protect the converters and began parking the cars inside the warehouse. And since this wasn’t the first time someone had breached a wire fence and ended up in a parking lot, I decided to invest in a sturdy eight-foot fence.

According to Segobiano, it set them back $69,200 — the equivalent of about 81,000 pounds of fruit and vegetables.

Jared Cabrera, Service Writer for Art’s Automotive in Berkeley, said:

Before the pandemic, it was almost unheard of, he said. Now, he estimates he sees four or five cars a week with converters stolen.

The value of precious metals, especially rhodium, in converters has skyrocketed since late 2019, potentially triggering a surge in theft. Rhodium is currently valued at about $14,000 per troy ounce, about eight times its current value. gold price.

“It’s very difficult to investigate, prosecute, and hold anyone accountable for these cases,” said Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Tamar Tokat.

Police rarely get caught while taking converters. If law enforcement finds someone with hundreds of converters, it might be questionable, but the converters aren’t marked, so they can’t be traced back to a specific car.

“How can you disprove the claim that it came from a junkyard, or if they [were] Was it given to you by another auto mechanic? Greg Totten, CEO of the California Association of District Attorneys, said: Under these circumstances, he said, it would be very difficult to prove (beyond a reasonable doubt) to a jury of 12 that it had been stolen.

countries take action

Lawmakers across the country are scrambling to curb catalytic converter crime.

Amanda Essex of the State Legislative National Assembly said the remedies fall into three main categories.

  • Regulating the sale of converters (for example, requiring more documentation).
  • increase or create new criminal penalties;
  • Label the converter in some way so that it can be traced back to its owner.

According to Essex, the state has passed at least 37 laws. However, these laws are very recent and there is still little evidence of them, if at all.

California legislators also produced 11 bill piles in this latest session. Many died early, but four survived layers of committees and votes. they are:

  • AB-1653This adds theft of vehicle parts to the list of priority crimes for the California Highway Patrol’s Regional Property Crime Task Force.
  • SB1087This limits legitimate sellers of catalytic converters to those who can prove that it is from their own vehicle, and to companies, including licensed auto dismantlers and repairers. Fines for breaking the law start at $1,000 and increase in increments for repeat offenses.
  • AB1740This requires an individual or business purchasing a catalytic converter to document the purchase by recording the year, make, model and VIN number of the vehicle from which the converter originated.
  • SB986If the converter is “ready to access”, the car dealer must etch the vehicle’s unique VIN number onto the catalytic converter. You will also need a trackable payment method for converters.

The first three bills were signed, and the fourth bill failed to pass Congress in late August. That bill was sponsored by the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office and was intended to make it easier for law enforcement to investigate and prosecute catalytic converter thefts.

Auto dealers, who would have been tasked with stamping numbers into converters, opposed the bill. Brian Maas, president of the California New Car Dealers Association, didn’t think it would deter theft and thought it would be costly. But in some cases, such as a car with converters mounted in the engine block, etching can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars, Maas said.

Legislators amended the bill to not require a VIN number if the converter is not “ready accessible” and “would reasonably require significant removal or disassembly of parts of the vehicle.” But Maas said he feared the standards were not well defined and that ambiguity could lead to lawsuits against dealers. “I can’t say today what ‘significant disassembly’ means. I don’t know which cars it applies to,” Maas said.

“I fear the dealer will be held accountable for not marking the catalytic converter that may have been stolen in the end,” he said.

Garden Grove’s Tom Umberg, a democratic senator who drafted the bill, said he was “frankly shocked” in a statement after the bill failed.

“It is no surprise that car dealers and car manufacturers are reluctant to take on this work to support their customers. We have had many conversations with them over the past seven months. And I’m more surprised that the majority of the California legislature chose the concerns of car dealers over cries of help from voters.”

Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Tokat believes two laws regulating the sale of converters would be ineffective without the VIN etching bill. “We’ve already had recordkeeping laws on books for years, but they haven’t really worked,” she said.

Still, some see the new law as a step in the right direction. Amanda Gualderama, a legislative advocate for the AAA, says the problem cannot be completely “cleaned up.” But her SB 1087, a bill that limits who can legally sell converters, closes a loophole in existing legislation, she said.

Will Congress intervene?

Congress can also require converters to be stamped with a VIN number.under federal law, cars are already obliged to label several other parts, including the engine.a parliamentary bill Add catalytic converters to your list and create a subsidy program to help pay for marking your existing vehicle.

“I think it’s kind of appalling that manufacturers don’t voluntarily put VIN on catalytic converters, knowing they’re a huge target.”

In June, the Fremont Police Department found about 300 suspected stolen catalytic converters at Arrow Recovery in Fremont, California.Photo courtesy of Fremont Police Department

CalMatters has reached out to Ford, Toyota and Honda. Ford didn’t answer his CalMatters question. A Toyota spokesperson said in a statement, though he did not respond to CalMatters’ question. To eliminate the market for these stolen parts. ”

Honda, who did not respond to questions, directed CalMatters to the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, an advocacy group for automakers.

Alliance was not available for an interview, but said via a statement: Public awareness and stronger penalties for illegal possession can deter this type of criminal activity. ”

What do car owners do?

https://www.dailynews.com/2022/10/10/california-is-a-hotspot-for-catalytic-converter-theft-will-new-laws-make-a-difference-2/ California is a hot spot for catalytic converter theft. Will the new law make a difference?

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