Catalytic converter theft hits low-income car owners hardest


OGDEN, Utah (AP) – Utah lawmakers consider a crackdown on catalytic converter theft, in which criminals have seen cars’ emission controls and sell precious metals found inside on a black market booming world.

Rep. Ryan Wilcox, a Republican who represents House District 7, covering North Ogden, Pleasant View and part of Ogden, is sponsoring a bill to create a statewide database of converter sales catalytic, reported the Standard-Examiner.

“We want to force (illegal) sales out of legitimate areas, to lock in the legitimate means of eliminating them,” Wilcox said. The usual suitable channel is through metal recycling yards.

“The individuals who steal them are usually drug addicts,” said Candace Daly, a representative for the Utah recycling industry, during a hearing on the bill Wednesday afternoon at the Utah Capitol. in Salt Lake City before the Interim Committee on Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice.

Daly said the going rate per ounce for rhodium this week was $ 9,950. Palladium is worth $ 1,967 an ounce and platinum $ 928, she said, listing three metals commonly found in catalytic converters.

Thieves can try to sell stolen converters to recyclers and sometimes succeed because tracking and enforcement is lacking, hence the need for a database, said Chris Walden, special agent for supervision of the prosecutor’s office. General of Utah.

In April and May, the GA office conducted Operation Urban Mining, making sales and undercover purchases of converters. They served a search warrant at a Davis County storage unit and found 124 stolen converters and five bags of bulk material from internal converters. Officers arrested three people.

Wilcox said in an interview that the investigation uncovered a converter theft ring operating from Eastern Europe and the materials had been shipped to Malaysia. “They were sort of using criminals already here and paying them” for the converters, he said.

One of the worst aspects of the trend is that converter thefts often target vehicles parked in streets, driveways or apartment parking lots. “It’s just a real tragedy, the amount of money it costs every family that happens to,” Wilcox said. “In my neighborhood, most people don’t have a garage.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau estimates that the average cost of replacing the catalytic converter is $ 1,800.

Data provided by the AG’s office shows converter flights have exploded in Utah, from 110 in 2018 to 654 in 2020 and 494 in the first five months of this year.

The Ogden Police Department and the Weber County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to inquiries about the theft of converters at the local level.

In addition to setting up a database, Wilcox’s bill would limit sales of converters to scrap dealers, auto recyclers and vehicle owners.

It would also create a presumption that a converter is stolen if the information is not collected at the time of purchase or if the same person tries to sell more than one converter per week.

Daly said she worked with Ogden Sen. Jon Greiner, who was also the police chief, on a 2007 metal theft crackdown bill. The move set up a system whereby law enforcement agencies would email suspicious information to recyclers, who would then be on watch and report to the police as needed.

But because of staff turnover and other causes, she said, “The system has collapsed and it’s not really working the way it used to be.”

She urged lawmakers to make a “team effort” and not impose the charges of the new program only on recyclers. The focus on law enforcement against property crimes has declined since 2007, she said.

“Thieves are not arrested and put in jail, there are not enough drug treatment centers and law enforcement needs more officers,” she said. “They are underpaid and overworked and it is not a very high priority to stop this.”

Senator Karen Mayne, a Democrat from Salt Lake County who will sponsor the bill in the Senate, said anyone who parks a car in public is in danger. “My next door neighbor’s two daughters went to a concert and when they got out the cars didn’t have these ‘cats’,” Mayne said.

In an attempt to prevent converter theft, vehicle owners can install anti-theft devices and park in locked garages or well-lit areas, according to research company BeenVerified. In public lots or garages, homeowners should park near driveways or where foot traffic is high.

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