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Friday, May 20, 2022

Catalytic converter theft crackdown: Colorado lawmakers seek to slow growth and help victims

A few years ago, you might not have known where the catalytic converter was in your car, let alone what it did. But now, with the theft of these emissions control devices on the rise across the country, people have become more aware of them and their value.

In 2019, the Aurora police recorded eight cases of theft of catalytic converters. In 2020, the agency had 68 thefts. And in 2021, that number has skyrocketed to 646, according to the Aurora Police Department.

Denver saw a similar increase, with 14 reported burglaries in 2019 to 268 in 2020. That number has risen again to 2,671 in 2021, according to the Denver Police Department.

This is a problem that has prompted bodyshops to offer products designed to protect catalytic converters. Last summer, AAA Colorado announced that it would offer a program to engrave serial numbers on devices that would be registered in a law enforcement database, and vehicles would have warning stickers to that effect. And now Colorado lawmakers are trying to do something about the problem with the recently introduced SB22-009.

The bill would make it illegal after October 31 to install, sell, offer to sell, or advertise any used, remanufactured, or salvaged catalytic converters unless the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment certifies them for installation and sale. It would also add the catalytic converters and the metals from those converters to Colorado’s current criminal law and require auto parts recyclers to make sure any catalytic converters they purchase haven’t been stolen. Increased regulation could make it easier to prosecute “fast food stores” for selling them.

Senator Dennis Hysey, a Republican from Fountain and one of the bill’s sponsors, said high theft rates are occurring not only in major cities but also in smaller rural communities such as his county, with larger SUVs and trucks often targeted because that they are re-raised and make it easier to remove devices.

“Everyone knows someone who has had this, even if they don’t know about it yet,” he said.

Haisi hopes the bill, if passed, will not only make it easier for consumers to replace catalytic converters if they are stolen – with a new aftermarket catalytic converter certification process – but also make it harder to dispose of stolen catalytic converters and metals.

The reason a new certification process is needed is because Colorado adopted California-style vehicle emissions standards in 2018 to help cut greenhouse gas emissions, including regulations for catalytic converters. State law requires vehicles to be equipped with manufacturer-supplied catalytic converters or a new aftermarket device that meets these emission standards. Heazy said the bill does not require changes to emissions standards, but should find a way to make it easier to get aftermarket catalytic converters so consumers don’t have to face thousands of dollars in bills.

Sponsor Senator Joan Jinal, Democrat of Fort Collins, said in a statement that the increase in theft across the country and in Colorado is causing cars to become inoperable, and Colorado residents have to deal with high costs and a lack of replacement options.

“This bill aims to address this issue while reducing crime in our communities,” she said.

Last May, Carrie Packard, development director for the nonprofit Stout Street Foundation, saw how easy it was to steal a catalytic converter. Six devices and an incomplete seventh were stolen from trucks in the parking lot of her work in just three minutes during the day. The two people in charge parked the van in front of the building’s security camera and managed to quickly remove the catalytic converters before driving off.

Packard called it a “crime of opportunity”, adding that “We didn’t lose sight of the irony that they were probably doing this to feed their addiction, so they stole from the recovery community.” Since then, the non-profit organization has stepped up security measures, but Packard estimates losses from the catalytic converters were about $20,000.

They relied on these trucks to transport residents and collect donations. When employees came to replace them, they found that no catalytic converters had been ordered, but some Colorado businesses stepped in and provided services.

Packard wonders how the kinds of theft she’s also heard happening at other nonprofits could be reduced because “there’s always going to be a black market somewhere for this precious heavy metal.” But she said, “I hope it makes things a little more difficult and reduces the number of steps from the street, but I don’t know how you would do it better,” Packard said of the bill.

World Nation News Deskhttps://www.worldnationnews.com
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