Catalytic converter theft is a huge problem. Will legislation signed by Gov. Newsom help?


Legislation designed to fight catalytic converter theft, a still rising scourge in California and nationwide, was signed into law Sunday by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

“By some studies, catalytic converter theft has increased some tenfold,” Newsom said in a statement on Twitter. “Ten (times) just since 2018.”

Catalytic converters, affixed underneath cars, are used to convert toxic exhaust from an engine into less harmful gas. But their components include precious metals such as platinum, palladium or rhodium and therefore are targeted by thieves to sell at recycling centers and junkyards.

AB 1740 — introduced by Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi, D-Torrance — requires recyclers of the converters to record the year, make and model of the car that corresponds to the device. It also stops recyclers from buying a catalytic converter from anyone except a licensed commercial business or the vehicle owner.

Similarly, SB 1087 — introduced by Sen. Lena Gonzalez, D-Long Beach — restricts the purchase of converters from anyone other than a dealer, auto specialist or car owner. Violations can amount to a fine of $1,000 to $5,000.

“California is doing what we do best. And that’s trying to be on the forefront of trying to solve for this,” Newsom said in his signing statement. “... We’re going to get to the root cause, at least one of the root causes of this crime, and that’s those brokers and those middlemen who pay top dollar for stolen parts.”

He added that by requiring detailed records of the catalytic converters, it’ll be easier to trace thefts. Restricting the market for stolen devices could help reduce the incentive to commit the thefts in the first place, he said.