Catalytic converter theft: Police, lawmakers crack down as reports of stolen converters rise in US

LOS ANGELES – U.S. law enforcement agencies are taking action after seeing an increase in catalyst thefts since the beginning of the pandemic.

“We’ve seen how fast, like NASCAR, they take the crickets, they cut them with a jack, they cut them, they watch security. Los Angeles Police Department Detective Michael Ventura.

The huge increase in catalyst thefts across the country has hit tens of thousands of car and truck owners in their pockets and has disappointed police, who are faced with a crime that takes minutes to commit and is difficult to solve even if they find the stolen accessories.

Recently in Arizona, the Phoenix Police Department seized more than 1,200 inverters from a storage unit.

Catalytic converters are not factory-recorded with serial numbers and stolen converters end up on a black market where they are cut for the precious metals they contain.

Replacing a car can cost a motorist $ 1,000 to $ 3,000, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, an insurance group working to combat insurance fraud and crime. Police say thieves can charge between $ 100 and $ 150 for each converter.

The insurance group counted just 3,969 catalyst theft reports in 2019, more than 17,000 in 2020 and more than 52,000 last year.

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Ventura said that since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, his department has reported a 293% increase in catalyst theft.

The department recently hosted a VIN hacking event at a local mall, where residents lined up to have their car VIN numbers permanently tagged on targeted auto parts. The Houston Police Department also hosts similar events.

Ventura said he hoped the initiative would prevent theft or, at the very least, help catch criminals.

“If I catch someone and they happen to have a number on them, now we can work upside down,” he said. “I can identify a victim and I can prosecute this case.”

Lawmakers across the nation have taken this into account, introducing legislation designed to make it harder for criminals to get rid of their loot. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, 150 bills have been introduced in 36 states this year and passed in 16 states.

That includes Arizona, where Republican Gov. Doug Ducey signed a bill this month that makes owning a catalytic converter a crime in many cases and adds detailed reporting requirements for scrap dealers who buy legally used devices. They must mark the item with the serial number of the donor vehicle and keep it in its original condition for at least one week.

Scrap dealers caught with unregistered or stolen converters face a $ 500 fine for the first offense, a $ 2,000 fine for a second offense and at least double each additional time caught. Those who own or attempt to sell a used catalytic converter that does not meet the new requirements may face up to six months in prison.

Federal legislation is also in the works. Indiana spokesman Jim Baird supports a bill backed by the National Insurance Crime Bureau that requires serial numbers on new devices, offers grants for numbers-stamping schemes on existing cars and trucks, and facilitates theft prosecution.

The president and CEO of the insurance group, David Glawe, described it as a critical step in providing relief to those directly affected by the thefts.

Insurance often does not cover the losses of a car owner. Someone who just bears liability coverage or liability and conflict is ready for the full account. Even with full coverage, there is a discount that can be high enough that it is not worth claiming.

“Finally, some victims, even with coverage, may treat the problem as a mechanical problem and simply pay for it themselves and never notify their insurer,” Tully Lehman, a spokeswoman for the Insurance Crimes Bureau, said Friday.

Car owners can also take steps to prevent theft by purchasing catalytic converter cages or vibration-sensitive car alarms to place under vehicles. Drivers may also choose to park in well-lit areas or near building entrances to deter thieves.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Catalytic converter theft: Police, lawmakers crack down as reports of stolen converters rise in US Source link Catalytic converter theft: Police, lawmakers crack down as reports of stolen converters rise in US

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