New state law aims to stop theft of catalytic converters

SAN DIEGO – Two new bills signed by California Governor Gavin Newsom hope to put an end to theft of catalytic converters in the Golden State.

The bills make it illegal for anyone to buy a catalytic converter from anyone other than “authorized auto wreckers or dealers.”

Newsom said these bills help put an end to one of the root causes of the problem:

The bills also require companies that buy catalytic converters to keep a detailed record. If people don’t comply, they could face a fine of up to $1,000 for their first offense and could have their business license suspended.

According to Carfax, reported thefts of catalytic converters saw a 1,215% increase from 1,300 in 2018 to more than 52,000 in 2021.

The staggering data is also seen throughout San Diego County.

“In 2021 we had 170 reported thefts, this year as of about a week ago we’re at about 125 thefts,” said Oceanside Police Department Sgt. Anthony Molina. He said in 2018 they only had one reported catalytic converter theft.

Tom Stanley, the owner of Standard Auto Recycling in Chula Vista and president of the San Diego County Auto Recycler’s Association, said he’s already wary of shady sellers looking to make a quick profit and hopes other buyers investigate the sellers as well of catalysts.

Dennis Allen opened Allen’s Wrench in San Marcos thirty years ago and recently said he’s replaced multiple catalytic converters in one day, something he’s never seen before.

“It’s a problem that needs to be solved,” Dennis Allen said. “It’s getting to the point where people are actually afraid to park their car.”

There is hope locally that the new laws can stop the thefts, but there is also hesitation.

“It’s great that we’re moving in that direction and now there’s legislation that will help fight this crime. We just want to see these efforts continue and help support law enforcement so we can prosecute these criminals and help these victims,” ​​said Oceanside Police Department Public Information Officer Jennifer Atenza. “Over the past several years, we have seen a dramatic increase in thefts of catalytic converters.”

“It can have an impact if they can have the resources to support enforcement until someone is handcuffed and thrown in jail for it and held there and punished, it’s not going to stop,” Stanley said.

Since converters are not traceable, both the Oceanside and Chula Vista Police Departments have held Vin number etching events to help.

“We put VIN numbers that are associated with the vehicles that the catalytic converter is on, we put them on and then we mark it on top of that with a very visible paint,” said Sgt Molina.

“Having that serial number on the converter is so helpful because it helps our detectives identify victims,” ​​Artenza said.

Cars most likely to have their catalytic converters stolen nationwide, according to Carfax.

  1. 1985-2021 Ford F Series
  2. 1989-2020 Honda Accord
  3. 2007-17 Jeep Patriot
  4. 1990-2022 Ford Econoline
  5. 1999-2021 Chevrolet Silverado
  6. 2005-21 Chevrolet Equinox
  7. 1997-2020 Honda CR-V
  8. 1987-2019 Toyota Camry
  9. 2011-17 Chrysler 200
  10. 2001-21 Toyota Prius

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