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LA County DA, push for legislation to curb catalytic converter thefts


Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón joined LA Police Chief Michel Moore on Tuesday in calling on state legislators to approve a measure aimed at curbing the theft of catalytic converters by requiring auto dealers to engrave the vehicle identification number on the devices on new vehicles and by banning cash sales for used catalytic converters.

The county’s top prosecutor — who last October called on auto manufacturers to work with him to develop solutions to the rising theft of catalytic converters — noted that thefts of the devices have been on the rise throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and that California is among the top five states in such crimes.

These crimes are costly to consumers in both repairs and insurance costs. They also make us feel unsafe,” Gascón said.

The solution to this problem, interestingly enough, is very simple to a great extent. When a catalytic converter is stolen, it is untraceable. That means that those crimes cannot be solved unless someone is literally caught in the act — something that is very difficult for the police to do.”

The measure, backed by State Senator Anthony Portantino, D-Pasadena and Senator Thomas Umberg, D-Santa Ana, would bar auto dealers and retailers from selling new vehicles unless the vehicle’s identification number has been engraved or etched onto the catalytic converter, and ban the cash sales of used catalytic converters by requiring recyclers to accept only traceable payment methods such as a credit card.

We need to step up and give law enforcement the tools they need to track these parts and to put the folks who steal them behind bars,” Portantino said Tuesday, 22.

Umberg said he had participated over the weekend in etching numbers on catalytic converters in an effort that he said took him 40 seconds and would take a professional about 10 seconds, and said the measure seemed to be a “common sense solution” to the rash of thefts.

Moore noted that one in five thefts from a vehicle in Los Angeles is a catalytic converter, noting that it has become a “very attractive market” for thieves and a “difficult challenge” for law enforcement to deter and hold those responsible accountable.

Catalytic converters — which are used to turn hazardous exhaust from a vehicle into less harmful gases — are made of highly valuable metals such as platinum, rhodium and palladium and can fetch up to $1,200 each, according to the District Attorney’s Office.