Catalytic converter theft bills clear key legislative hurdle

Jun 1, 2022

California lawmakers have introduced nearly a dozen bills that would address the continued rise in catalytic converter theft. Five of these measures unanimously passed their house of origin and will now be heard in policy committees in the second house. This is indicative of both the scale of the problem and the Legislature’s eagerness to solve it.

Catalytic converters are often stolen because they contain precious metals and can be scrapped for a quick profit. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, which represents insurance companies, California is the top state for catalytic converter thefts.

State Farm reported a similar trend. The insurance company paid $23 million to California consumers to cover associated costs in 2021, up from $2.5 million in 2019.  

In California, existing law makes it extremely difficult for local law enforcement officers to stop the sale of stolen catalytic converters. The Legislature is contemplating a variety of bills to address this tension.  

Cal Cities currently supports three of these measures: AB 1740 (Muratsuchi), AB 2407 (O’Donnell), and SB 1087 (Gonzalez). Each of these bills would increase the tracking of catalytic converter sales and outline parameters for who may purchase or possess these auto parts.

If passed, these bills would enable law enforcement officers to better respond to catalytic converter theft calls and discourage sales on the black market.

Cal Cities is also monitoring AB 2682 (Gray) and SB 986 (Umberg), which would mandate the engraving of a vehicle’s identification number on its catalytic converter before the vehicle’s sale or purchase. Cal Cities has adopted a watch position for these two measures since it is unclear what level of deterrence they would create.

Legislators have rallied behind many of these measures, with many acknowledging that the Californians most impacted by this rise in theft are the very ones who can least afford it. Others have stated that current law has created an imbalanced risk-reward ratio for these kinds of thefts and that these measures aim to reconcile that.

Collectively, the measures build on last year’s SB 366 (Umberg), which reformed the Vehicle Dismantling Industry Strike Team in order to address the growing number of catalytic converter thefts. In an effort to crackdown on interstate sales, SB 366 directs the California Department of Motor Vehicles to coordinate enforcement and compliance activities related to unlicensed vehicle dismantling with other state agencies.

For more information about Cal Cities’ advocacy efforts on these bills, please contact Legislative Affairs Lobbyist Elisa Arcidiacono.