Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón is calling on state legislators to approve a measure aimed at curbing the theft of catalytic converters by requiring auto dealers to engrave the vehicle identification number on the devices on new vehicles and by banning cash sales for used catalytic converters.
“These crimes are costly to consumers in both repairs and insurance costs. They also make us feel unsafe,” Gascón said. “The solution to this problem, interestingly enough, is very simple to a great extent. When a catalytic converter is stolen, it is untraceable. That means that those crimes cannot be solved unless someone is literally caught in the act — something that is very difficult for the police to do.”
Senate Bill 986 would prohibit automobile dealers and retailers from selling a new vehicle unless a vehicle identification number (VIN) has been engraved or etched onto the catalytic converter. It also would prohibit the cash sales of used catalytic converters by requiring core recyclers to accept only traceable payment methods, such as a credit card.
Catalytic converters, which are used to turn hazardous exhaust into less harmful gases, are made of highly valuable metals such as platinum and can be worth up to $1,200. The exhaust emission control devices currently are untraceable. Without a unique identifying feature, like a VIN, it is nearly impossible for law enforcement to prove that a particular catalytic converter was stolen.
There has been a sharp rise in catalytic converter thefts nationwide since the COVID-19 pandemic began, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau. California is among the top five states for catalytic converter thefts, according to the agency.
Last October, Gascón called upon four major automobile manufacturers to work with his office to find creative solutions to address the rise in catalytic converter thefts in Los Angeles County.