Through the Preventing Auto Recycling Theft (PART) Act (S. 5024) introduced into the Senate this week, U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) want to add traceable identification numbers to catalytic converters to fight back against a rise in their theft.
Catalytic converters are used to tamp down on the toxic emissions produced by internal combustion engines and are required on vehicles under the Clean Air Act. According to a report from the National Insurance Crime Bureau, their theft rose by more than 325 percent between 2019 and 2020.
“Throughout the country, we’ve seen an alarming increase in catalytic converter theft,” Klobuchar said. “These converters can be easily taken from unattended cars but are difficult and expensive for car owners to replace. 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.”
In addition to IDs for ease of tracking, the bill would explicitly codify converter theft as a criminal offense. Largely, this would impact new vehicles, but the bill would also create a grant program through which entities could stamp VINs onto existing catalytic converters on old vehicles. This would coincide with improved record-keeping standards for purchasers of used catalytic converters.
“The theft of catalytic converters hurts the pocketbooks of working families and small business owners already struggling with rising costs,” Wyden said. “By strengthening local law enforcement’s ability to locate stolen car parts, we will be one step closer in the fight to end catalytic converter theft.”
Companion legislation is also working its way through the House (H.R. 6394), introduced by U.S. Rep. Jim Baird (R-IN). These efforts have been backed by the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), American Truck Dealers, American Trucking Associations, National Insurance Crime Bureau, National Consumers League, and more.
“Catalytic converter theft is out of control nationwide,” NADA President and CEO Mike Stanton said. “Because converters currently can’t be traced and laws are different from state to state, criminals see catalytic converter theft as easy money. This is a huge issue for dealerships and consumers alike. We thank Senators Klobuchar and Wyden for their leadership on the PART Act, which will provide critical tools for law enforcement to help stem the skyrocketing rise of catalytic converter theft.”
These converters have become such popular targets because their foundations are made of precious metals such as palladium, rhodium, and platinum. As these metals’ value has risen in the market, so too have part thefts. While easily and quickly removed and resold for up to $350, replacing these parts imposes significant financial costs to vehicle owners, often between $500 to $2,300, and can even result in a total loss to the vehicle.