Bill seeks to crack down on catalytic converter thefts

A man holds a replacement catalytic converter.
Mark Olek holds a replacement catalytic converter at his Economy Muffler shop in St. Paul in January 2020. He said he's regularly replacing the stolen devices for several customers a day.
Tim Nelson | MPR News 2020

Minnesota lawmakers introduced legislation Thursday to crack down on rising catalytic converter thefts, which can cost car owners thousand of dollars to fix.

The bill by Democratic Sen. John Marty, of Roseville, seeks to disrupt the black market by preventing anyone but licensed scrap metal dealers from buying used catalytic converters. Scrap dealers would be barred from buying them from anyone other than a repair shop, auto recycler or a vehicle owner who provides proof of ownership.

Marty would also make it illegal for scrap dealers to pay cash for converters. And it would be illegal for individuals to possess used converters that aren't attached to a car unless the owner has proof of legitimate removal and ownership.

Police in Minnesota and across the country are reporting surges in converter thefts because they contain valuable rare metals such as palladium and rhodium. While thieves can get $200 to $300 from scrap buyers, replacement costs for car owners can exceed $2,000 to $3,000.

Marty said it's hard to prosecute catalytic converter theft, but stealing them is so easy that thieves can strike parking lots and cars parked on the street in broad daylight. He said police sometime stop cars with multiple used converters in the back, but can't prove the converters were stolen.

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