S.B. County approves new ordinance to crack down on catalytic converter theft | News

Thieves who have a catalytic converter on their hands and no proof it belongs to them will soon face a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail.

The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors took action recently to combat the growing problem of catalytic converter theft.

In 2020, there were 556 reports of catalytic converter theft in the county, and as of December 2021, the number increased by 120 percent to 1,223 thefts.

A catalytic converter is an emissions device under a vehicle that is part of the exhaust system. The devices contain expensive precious metals including platinum (which is valued at $1,000 per ounce), palladium ($2,000 per ounce), and rhodium ($14,000 per ounce).

Catalytic converters are also easy to remove in a matter of seconds with common tools such as a reciprocating saw. Scrap metal yards recycle the devices for hundreds of dollars and it is difficult to prosecute a criminal for theft in which a victim cannot be identified. Finding victims of catalytic converter thefts are especially difficult because of the lack of identifying markers on catalytic converters linking them to a victim.

While thieves are making money from stealing catalytic converters from vehicles, repairing the damage and replacing the stolen device can cost victims from $1,000 to $3,000.

There is currently no federal or state legislation applicable within San Bernardino County requiring people to provide proof to law enforcement showing how they obtained catalytic converters, which limits the ability to protect the public from this theft.

The new ordinance requires people who are in possession of a device not attached to a vehicle to have the following documentation:

• Vehicle license plate number and Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)

• Name, address, and telephone number of the owner of the vehicle

• Signature of the owner authorizing removal of the catalytic converter

• Name, address, and phone number of the current owner of the catalytic converter

For removed catalytic converters staying in possession of the current owner, the following documentation is required:

• Proof of ownership of the vehicle

• Valid receipt for the replacement catalytic converter

• Proof of installation for the replacement catalytic converter

The ordinance will go into effect on Sept. 22.

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