The theft of catalytic converters has confounded a growing number of Queens residents in recent years, but the state Legislature has passed legislation to impose restrictions on the purchase, sale and possession of the automotive device by vehicle dismantlers, scrap processors and others, according to state Senator Joseph Addabbo.
Parking lots, auto dealerships, auto repair shops and even residential driveways are prime targets for thieves that roll up in the night and act with the precision of NASCAR pit crews as they remove the catalytic converters from the undersides of cars, vans and trucks.
“The ease of removing these devices from vehicles and the valuable precious metals used in catalytic converters has made this particular item a prime target for thieves,” Addabbo said.
The legislation will deter thieves from stealing catalytic converters by requiring vehicle dismantlers and scrap processors to keep a paper trail and information on the seller of these devices.
Documentation must be filed within 60 days with a failure to do so resulting in increased fines, not to exceed double the value of the gain from any illegal sale. New motor vehicle dealers and other qualified dealers will also be required to stock catalytic converter etching kits for new motor vehicles at a cost no higher than the value of the etching kit.
Catalytic converters are exhaust emission control devices that reduce toxic gasses and pollutants in exhaust gas from an internal combustion engine into less-toxic pollutants. They have been installed in vehicles since the 1970s and all vehicles are required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to have a catalytic converter. Addabbo explained that these devices are not stamped with identifiers, which makes cases of theft harder to solve.
Catalytic converters are worth more than $300 on the black market because they contain valuable precious metals including platinum, palladium and rhodium. The current price for an ounce of rhodium costs in excess of $20,000, according to Consumer Reports. The value of the precious metals, and the external location on a vehicle’s undercarriage, make these devices a target for thieves. Thefts of the automotive part rose an astonishing 325% nationwide between 2019 and 2020, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau. The NYPD reports that catalytic converter thefts have risen from 211 to 802 over that same period, and exploded to 3,705 in 2021.
“This legislation, which for me is a direct result of constituent complaints, will ensure law enforcement has the necessary tools to thoroughly investigate the theft of this vital equipment which serves to protect the environment, while also ensuring individuals caught stealing will face appropriate consequences.”
Rates of catalytic converter thefts have become more common since 2000 and particularly in 2020 due to the high metal prices. Bolt-on converters are especially easy to remove, but welded-on devices are easily cut off with a theft taking two minutes or less. The tools used to remove a catalytic converter can damage components of the vehicle, such as the alternator, wiring or fuel lines, which can lead to dangerous consequences. Catalytic converters cost thousands of dollars to replace and the amount increases if further damage was done to the vehicle during the theft.
After passing the Senate and Assembly, the bill awaits the final approval of the governor. These new restrictions and record-keeping requirements for catalytic converters would take effect 180 days after being signed into law.