State lawmakers create bill to crack down on catalytic converter thefts
State lawmakers are looking to crack down on thieves who steal catalytic converters out of parked cars, but some businesses say their plan targets the wrong people.
Most cars need a catalytic converter to keep the exhaust clean.
Sean-Michael Green, of JDog Junk Removal & Hauling in Fairfield, says someone stole the catalytic converter from their truck right in a Home Depot parking lot.
"We had to turn this into insurance because it did about $10,000 worth of damage," said Green.
Catalytic converter thefts are skyrocketing because criminals want the valuable metal inside. Thieves then sell the converter to scrap metal businesses.
"These stolen precious metals are converted into cash from scrap metal operators and others," says Eric George with the Insurance Association of Connecticut. "And those guys could be operating within the law, but they're unwittingly enabling the proliferation of these kinds of thefts."
Connecticut lawmakers hope a new bill can curb the crime wave.
It would force scrap yards to record the seller's name, address, driver's license and plate number. They'd even have to take a picture of the seller and the catalytic converter. Businesses would have to submit a report to the Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection each week.
"We would make it much more difficult for a thief to dispose of these catalytic converters," said state Sen. Eric Berthel (R-Watertown).
The bill also applies to auto recyclers, who purchase whole cars and are already subject to strict reporting requirements. At a public hearing on Thursday, recyclers said the bill unfairly targets them because they don't even buy loose converters.
"The bill will force us to file unnecessary paperwork weekly, and if the state chooses, daily," said Joe Genovese, general manager of A-Rite Used Auto Parts in New Britain.
Car recyclers are pushing for a simple ban.
"If we just made the law 'auto recyclers cannot purchase a catalytic converter that is not attached to that car,' that's as plain and simple as it gets," said Bill DeBacco, president of the Connecticut Auto Recyclers Association.
Catalytic converter thefts are becoming so common that some car lots are actually deflating all their tires each night. That way thieves can't get a jack underneath to lift up the cars.
The legislature's Public Safety Committee is likely to revise the bill before it takes a vote next week.