The Golden State will now require businesses to maintain strict records surrounding valuable car parts.
Catalytic converter thefts have been the bane of motorists for many years. The valuable component, which forms part of a vehicle's exhaust system, contains valuable materials such as palladium, platinum, and rhodium. The recent events in Ukraine have led myriad companies and nations to enforce trade bans on Russia.
This is admirable but has led to other issues. Russia is the world's largest exporter of palladium, and the recent trade sanctions have throttled supply. As a result, prices have surged and thieves are taking advantage. Save for engraving your VIN into the component, there's very little you can do to prevent this from happening to your car - but the state of California has stepped in with a solution.
Governor Gavin Newsom announced on Sunday that new legislation will suppress catalytic converter theft. In a post shared on Twitter, Gov. Newsom noted that brokers and middlemen who pay for stolen parts will have a much tougher time doing so. "It will be illegal in California to buy catalytic converters from anyone other than licensed auto dismantlers or dealers."
What's more, the businesses that are allowed to sell these parts will have to keep "detailed records, so we can better trace thefts if they occur," added Newsom. In theory, this should make it tougher for criminals to sell stolen parts, as the potential penalties may outweigh the illicit profits.
These new laws - Assembly Bill 1740 and Senate Bill 1087 - will penalize buyers who cannot certify the origins of a catalytic converter. Gov. Newsom added, "[if] you take away the market for stolen goods, you can help cut down on stealing. It's not much more complicated than that. It's just another example of how we're leaning in to reduce crime in this state and keep Californians safe."
Hopefully, other states are looking at what California is doing and will soon implement similar laws. Despite these efforts on the part of lawmakers, sneaky criminals will always find a way around the system and find a way to profit from illegal activities. With any luck, this should at least curb the problem.
To some, this may sound like an unimportant matter, but the underground market for catalytic converters is big business. In August, an Oregon crime ring was disbanded after a police investigation uncovered 44,000 stolen cats worth $22 million. The syndicate had amassed the components over months of thievery, with the 14 suspects brought up on charges of racketeering, money laundering, and aggravated theft.
Based on a 2021 report by the Congressional Research Service, a stolen catalytic converter can net an opportunistic larcenist between $25 and $500. Commonly targeted vehicles are, unsurprisingly, more popular models such as the Honda Accord, Toyota Prius, and Ford F-Series trucks. The profit made by these delinquents pales in comparison to the repair costs - replacements could set a motorist back $3,000.