Walz signs bill aimed at curbing catalytic converter thefts
It will soon be illegal in Minnesota to possess a used catalytic converter that is not attached to a vehicle unless it has the vehicle’s identification number written on it.
That’s the thrust of a bill signed Thursday by Gov. Tim Walz that aims to curb the dramatic rise in catalytic converter thefts. Thieves can strip the pollution control devices from vehicles in minutes, leaving owners with an average bill of $2,600 to replace it.
Catalytic converters are a sought after because they contain rare earth metals that are more valuable than gold. The legislation also creates new rules for scrap yards where the devices are often sold.
“Catalytic converter theft has hit thousands Minnesotans, costing them thousands of dollars — and substantial time — to replace,” Senate Majority Leader Kari Dziedzic, DFL-Minneapolis, said in a statement. “Enactment of this new law will help reverse the explosion in thefts.”
Theft of the devices has skyrocketed over the last few years with 4,000 thefts reported in Minneapolis and St. Paul in 2021. In 2018 there were 40 catalytic converter thefts statewide.
Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville, has pushed the legislation for three years, but the bill stalled under Republican leadership in the Senate. Democrats now have a one-seat majority in the chamber as well as a narrow advantage in the House.
Republican lawmakers have criticized the bill saying it could make inadvertent criminals out of people working on their cars or selling scrap metal.
Law enforcement supported the changes because it makes possessing a catalytic converter without an identification number contraband. Under current law, police said they had little recourse if they found someone in possession of several of the devices.
Now, if police stop someone with a used converter they can check the number to see if it is stolen. Possessing one without proper markings would be a misdemeanor, two a gross misdemeanor and three or more a felony.
Insurance carriers estimate catalytic converter theft cost the state as much as $25 million a year. By some measures, Minnesota ranks third, behind California and Texas, in the number of converter thefts.
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