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EDITORIAL | Taxpayers shouldn’t pay to prevent catalytic converter theft


By The Editorial Board


Catalytic converters are a valuable commodity–and theft of the pricey car parts has risen since the pandemic. In Robinson, we recently reported someone stole a public works vehicle and it was recovered without the catalytic converter. Thefts of this sort often show up in our police blotter.


As of March 3, there were more than 270 catalytic converter thefts in the Pittsburgh area last year according to WPXI.


In fact, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, a thief mining for the precious metals in catalytic converters can collect between 10-15 or more converters in a day.


Sport Utility Vehicles have the hefty ground clearance these types of crooks use to gain access to the prized part without having to use a jack.


The metals inside each piece, like platinum, rhodium and palladium, help clean car exhaust, but the precious materials are also fetching high prices on the resale market.


Catalytic converter thefts in 2022 were up nearly 20% across the country compared in 2022 from the previous year and thefts through 2021 more than quadrupled all catalytic converter thefts in 2020, according to Beenverified.com. The site also named Pennsylvania as a “hot spot” with 3,020 thefts last year.


One state which saw a significant drop in catalytic converter theft was North Dakota. The local Sheriff’s Department in Burleigh County began working with local recycling businesses and began “focused patrol efforts” according to reporting done by Jack Dura at the Bismarck Tribune.

The legislature there also got involved, and in February of this year passed a bill which would require scrap dealers to register in order to sell catalytic converters. They’d also have to keep a record of sellers and limit payments to $100 per piece. The bill is still awaiting North Dakota Gov. Doug Burnam’s signature.


To fight the problem, Minnesota created a grant program to etch vehicle identification numbers (VINs) onto catalytic converters, and North Carolina made catalytic converter theft a felony, according to the This should be National Auto Dealers Association. In 2022, Long Island also passed legislation to curb the rampant theft.


TheThis should be National Auto Dealers Association has begun promoting a bill aimed at fighting rising catalytic converter theft. According to the legislation, “Stolen catalytic converters can garner anywhere from $20 to $350 on the black market, with the replacement cost to vehicle owners averaging over $2,500.”


That situation has been worsened by the shortage of catalytic converters on the market, thus the problem has become akin to a snake eating its own tail.


Catalytic converters are not currently one of the 18 vehicle parts required to be marked with a VIN or number traceable to a VIN, according to the bill.


The Federal PART Act, which stands for Preventing Auto Recycling Theft, includes a “$7 million grant program through which certain entities can voluntarily stamp VINs, or other identifiers, onto the catalytic converters of vehicles already on the road at no cost to vehicle owners.”


It should come as no surprise that, “dealers are specifically eligible to utilize this grant program.”


The bill would also require new vehicles to have unique, traceable identifying numbers stamped on catalytic converters at the time of assembly.


In our opinion, companies that make catalytic converters shouldn't push off accountability onto the taxpayer. They could do something akin to a recall, and be forced to press VINs on catalytic converters that already exist on the road.


In February, the legislation was introduced federally in a bipartisan effort by the Senate and the House. If passed, it could help prevent future theft. At the same time, the national grant program could cost taxpayers money and resources to fix a problem fostered by industry-wide apathy.


The Editorial Board thinks car manufacturers and resellers should bear the cost of etching VIN numbers themselves. Why should taxpayers and honestly, resellers who make a lot less than car manufacturers bear that cost?


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