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Conn. passes legislation to regulate purchase of catalytic converters

Catalytic Converter Thefts
Steve Helber
Used catalytic converter that was removed from cars at a salvage yard are piled up in a carton in Richmond, Va. in 2021. Thefts of the emission control devices have jumped over the last two years as prices for the precious metals they contain have skyrocketed.

Public Act 22-43, which Gov. Ned Lamont signed into law on May 17, takes aim at the recent rise in catalytic converter thefts by establishing new requirements for businesses that purchase these parts.

The legislation bans motor vehicle recyclers from accepting any catalytic converters that are not attached to a car. Scrap metal processors and junk dealers may still purchase individual converters, but must maintain meticulously-detailed records of where, when, and from whom the part was purchased – including the seller’s name, address, and driver’s license number.

The uptick in converter thefts is not a uniquely Connecticut phenomenon – several other states have proposed similar legislation.

“It’s not uncommon to see property crimes increase during challenging economic circumstances,” said Ken Barone, who researches crime, particularly auto thefts, at the University of Connecticut. “Around 18 to 20 other states have considered similar bills.”

Barone said insurance claims for converter thefts nationwide have risen nearly tenfold during the pandemic, and the thefts are likely underreported.

Catalytic converters are a popular target because they contain precious metals like rhodium, which is worth up to seven times more than gold per ounce.

“Part of that is that we have these supply chain issues that have driven up the cost of these precious metals even more than they would’ve in other economic downturns,” Barone said.

Barone believes that requiring businesses to carefully consider where their parts are coming from is smart, but he also pointed out that it could be too easy for people to travel across state lines to sell parts they stole in Connecticut.

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