By Bob Katzen
The House approved and sent to the Senate a bill that would create a “chain of custody” for used catalytic converter sales. A catalytic converter is a device that converts the environmentally hazardous exhaust emitted by a vehicle’s engine into less harmful gasses. The measure requires the buyer to keep records of each converter purchased, from which vehicle it was removed from and who the seller was.
These records would be made available upon request to law enforcement.
Supporters explained that several communities have seen a rise in catalytic converter thefts because the converters use platinum, palladium or rhodium to operate. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, the values of these precious metals contained inside catalytic converters have skyrocketed and is staggering. As of March 2022, rhodium is valued at $20,000 per ounce; palladium at $2,938 per ounce; and platinum at $1,128 per ounce. For thieves, this means a catalytic converter might be a better score than the average wedding band or gold watch.
“Many scrapyards and black-market buyers have an open call out for catalytic converters, which they turn around and sell to metal recyclers,” says the Cavallo and Signoriello Insurance Agency in Massachusetts. “Ten years ago, a thief could earn between $20 and $200 per stolen converter. Today, thanks to the spike in the value of these metals, that range is more like $300 to $850, for just a few minutes of work.”
“Catalytic theft is an epidemic,” said House sponsor Rep. Steve Howitt (R-Seekonk). “It is not only very costly to the vehicle owner, if they do not have comprehensive insurance, it creates an inconvenience to have repairs done. This bill would try to tighten up the market in Massachusetts for these thieves to pawn their stolen goods.”
The House approved a different version of the measure in October. The Senate version now goes to the House for consideration.