A legislative committee on public safety advanced a proposal Tuesday which would restrict the sale of detached catalytic converters in Connecticut in an effort to curb a nationwide spike in theft of the auto parts.
With bipartisan support, the Public Safety and Security Committee approved the bill, which would prohibit vehicle recyclers from receiving catalytic converters that are not attached to a vehicle and require a VIN to be etched into any converter they sell.
The bill aims to eliminate the market for stolen catalytic converters. The emission control devices contain several precious metals and are accessible from underneath a vehicle, making them an easy target for thieves.
The lawmakers on the committee changed the bill Tuesday, opting for the prohibition on buying detached converters rather than require more extensive record-keeping by recyclers, as the legislation had initially contemplated.
That change comes after testimony from auto recyclers during a public hearing last week. Joe Genovese, of A-Rite Used Auto Parts in New Britain, told lawmakers some of the bill’s record-keeping requirements were unwieldy for recyclers and asked lawmakers to prohibit any sale instead.
“The issue of stolen catalytic converters is an absolute public crisis. I receive phone calls weekly from distressed people looking for the parts to repair their vehicles. The damage that is done by these thieves are more than just a stolen part. No one should have to go outside to start their car in the morning and find that it’s inoperable because of these actions.”
Catalytic converter theft has soared around the country during the pandemic. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, the average thefts per month jumped from 108 in 2018 to 1,203 in 2020.
Although a thief may make between $50 and $250 on a stolen converter, Howard Handler, senior director of government affairs for the National Insurance Crime Bureau, told lawmakers that the incidents are far more costly for the owner of the impacted vehicles.
“[I]nstalling a replacement catalytic converter can cost thousands of dollars,” Handler wrote in written testimony. “Because thieves try to remove the converters as quickly as possible, their hastiness often causes higher repair costs due to incidental damage.”
The committee approved the legislation Tuesday on its consent calendar, meaning no one sought the opportunity to voice opposition. The bill will now head to the state Senate for consideration.