A bill that would require catalytic converters to have a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) stamped on them and increasing penalties for catalytic converter thieves was introduced to the Senate on Thursday.
Senate Bill 919, authored by Senator Brian Jones (R-Santee), would have new and used car dealers to permanently mark the VIN number on catalytic converters before being sold, primarily to help identify it if it is stolen and attempted to be sold. In turn, metal recyclers would then only be allowed to buy catalytic converters with VIN numbers on them and keep records of sale for police departments to access.
SB 919 would also raise the fines on catalytic converter thefts, adding to the potential jail times and fines thieves already face. Overall, the bill is designed to further discourage catalytic converter thefts and ease the arrest and prosecution of such thieves.
Catalytic converters, which are specialized exhaust emission control devices found underneath vehicles, are typically stolen for the rare metals inside, and can go for between $50 to $250 when sold to metal recyclers. Hybrid car converters, which contain more rare metals, can go for even more, with some bringing in $1,500 each. Meanwhile, people that have had them stolen have to pay up to $4,000 for a replacement converter, causing many a great financial burden.
Senator Jones wrote the bill to counter the dramatic rise of catalytic converter thefts in California in the last few years, as well as increase the risks for thieves. He hopes that, if passed, the bill will stop the rise and help lower the number of thefts due to the increased risk.
“The crime of stealing catalytic converters in California has skyrocketed in the last several months,” said Senator Jones in a statement on Thursday. “Unfortunately, unless some changes in the law are made it will only get worse. Thieves often face few risks in getting caught or prosecuted, yet the car or truck owner faces thousands of dollars in repairs and the inability to use their vehicle for days or weeks while it’s being repaired. My bill will help discourage, prevent, and prosecute the growing crime of catalytic converter theft in California.”
SB 919 already has the support of many law enforcement organizations and currently has no known opposition against it.
“I’m so grateful to Senator Jones and his office for backing this bill to combat catalytic converter theft, an issue that has impacted countless victims,” said Chula Vista Police Chief Roxana Kennedy. “This legislation is critical to protecting the property interests of our community and beyond.”
Many auto dealers have expressed support for the bill as well, but have concerns over some of the potential costs.
“Who is going to pay to stamp the converter with the VIN?” asked Thomas Selkirk, a San Diego car salesman, to the Globe on Thursday. “Don’t get me wrong, these thefts have gotten out of hand. Some customers return to the dealership here to add in a new one because theirs was stolen. But the burden shouldn’t be on the dealer to pay. There needs to be a solution where we aren’t getting hit with extra costs.”
SB 919 is expected to go to committee in the coming weeks.