Proposal to tackle catalytic converter theft is a good start, but more is needed


More and more around Chicago, motorists start their morning with an unwanted roar.

This is probably because the catalytic converters in their cars were hacked and stolen overnight, leaving a breach in their exhaust system which is not only noisy but also expensive to repair.

State Representative Shawn Ford wants to curb catalytic converter theft with a bill require anyone selling a used catalytic converter to show two sources of identification, including a driver’s license or state ID, at the point of sale. The buyer should keep track of the information.

“If you have to identify who you are when you sell this catalytic converter, then you are going to think twice. [about stealing and selling one]”, Ford told CBS2 Chicago last month.

Ford’s proposal is a good start. His bill should quickly find its place in the law. But other states have cracked down on catalytic converter theft even more in the past two years. Illinois should do the same.

Easy to steal, precious inside

Catalytic converters are emission control devices that have been standard on US gasoline-powered automobiles since 1975. They are easy to steal. Thieves can lift a car, slide under it, and shut off the converter in minutes.

Once scanned, converters are often routed to automatic scrap metal dealers and others who harvest the minute amounts of precious precious metals inside the device. One of the metals, rhodium, is currently trading at $ 14,000 per troy ounce.

Not that thieves collect that kind of money. Stolen converters could earn them as little as $ 50. But car owners could end up paying up to $ 2,000 to replace the unit, although comprehensive auto insurance often covers theft.

State Farm says it paid $ 21 million for catalytic converter thefts in the first six months of 2021. The insurer paid $ 33 million for device thefts during all of 2020.

Among the states with the most claims, Illinois is ranked fifth, according to State Farm. California holds the first place.

Bill should be harder, however

Under Ford’s bill, any business selling auto parts, from scrap dealers to rebuilders, would have to register every converter purchased, including the name and address of the seller, who would need to show identification to complete the transaction. .

It is a start, but we want more stringent provisions. For example, an Ohio state lawmaker last month proposed a law that would require a seller of catalytic converters to provide documentation proving they actually own the device. Buyers would be required to photograph the seller.

And in July, Indiana passed a law that requires people seeking to sell a converter that is not attached to a vehicle to provide the title, vehicle registration, or repair receipt for the car whose device has been removed. If documentation cannot be provided, the seller must have an affidavit from a police officer essentially confirming that the converter is not stolen.

These are the kinds of extra steps we would like to see become law here in Illinois.

The Hoosiers are serious too. Stealing or owning a stolen converter in Indiana is a Level 6 felony – it was once a misdemeanor – that can result in between six months and two and a half years in prison and a fine of $ 10,000 if convicted.

Closer to home, Evanston Police sponsored an event earlier this month in which the department spray painted car owners converters, in the hope that the light marking on the device would prevent it from being stolen and sold.

But does it work? Police in St. Paul, Minnesota tried the idea in April, spraying SPPD with gloss paint on the converter.

“What we have found is that many scrap yards will not purchase a marked catalytic converter,” a police spokesperson said. told Minnesota Public Radio.

Every little bit counts, however. Illinois can take a step forward by passing Ford’s bill, with amendments to make it clear that our state is serious about tackling these thefts.

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About Julius Southworth

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