As Faribault sees another wave of stolen catalytic converters, one of Minnesota’s congresswomen is proposing legislation aimed at curbing such thefts.
Faribault Police Chief John Sherwin said there’s been a jump in catalytic converter thefts in the city this fall.
Fourteen thefts have been reported since the beginning of October. In one more instance, a different vehicle part was taken that a thief might have mistaken for a catalytic converter.
Catalytic converters turn pollutants into safer emissions. The vehicle parts contain precious metals and the scrap value for those metals has jumped in the last few years, leading to a nationwide increase in thefts.
The converters are on the underside of vehicles and are fairly easy to cut off.
Thieves often can “get in and out in no time without being noticed,” Sherwin said.
While the part itself is valued at a few hundred dollars, the cost of replacing the part and fixing damage to a vehicle can reach over a thousand dollars.
Sherwin said waves of catalytic converter thefts tend to be the work of one or two people working as part of an “organized network” of illegal scrappers.
There has been no pattern so far in the latest local rash, the chief said. The thief or thieves have hit all parts of the city at all hours of the day.
Community members can help thwart thieves by “being vigilant” and reporting any suspicious activity, Sherwin said, such as someone carrying a saw and looking under vehicles.
Rice County Sheriff Jess Thomas said there has not been an uptick in catalytic converter thefts in his office’s jurisdiction, which includes unincorporated areas of the county and some small cities. There have been four reported thefts and two attempted thefts since June.
Last year Minnesota lawmakers created a pilot program providing $400,000 for labels for select automotive businesses to place on customers’ catalytic converters at no charge. The service is not available in Faribault.
For several years Minnesota has been requiring scrap metal buyers to keep a record of purchases and release information to law enforcement when requested.
But Sherwin said he suspects stolen catalytic converters are often being moved out of state. That’s why he said he’d welcome federal legislation like the bill being co-sponsored by Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
The U.S. Senate and companion House bills would require all sellers of catalytic converters and other precious metals to provide identification and information about the vehicle from which the part was obtained.
The bill also would require all new vehicles be stamped with identification numbers, and would create a grant program to help add numbers to existing vehicles.
While catalytic converter thefts are currently prosecuted under general theft statutes, the bill also would specifically identify catalytic converter thefts as a crime.
“Throughout the country, we’ve seen an alarming increase in catalytic converter theft,” Klobuchar said in a statement. “By making catalytic converter theft a criminal offense and ensuring each converter can be easily tracked, our legislation would provide law enforcement officers with the tools and resources they need to crack down on these crimes.”