New Oregon bill attempts to tackle catalytic converter theft

SB 803 sponsored by Senator Gorsek came into effect on January 1; solves the problem at the point of sale with new regulations

A number of catalytic converters at a scrap plant, December 14, 2021 (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) – Senate Bill 803, sponsored by Sen. Chris Gorsek, D-Troutdale, and Sen. Bill Kennemer, R-Oregon City, puts in place market protections that will make it “nearly impossible to profit from selling catalytic converters ”because there will be no buyers.

“Most catalytic converters end up making their way into the trade chain of the big recycling companies,” said Kevin Demer, Multnomah County Senior Assistant District Attorney. “These companies absolutely do not want to buy stolen catalytic converters and with this law, only legitimately acquired catalytic converters will have the proper papers and can be purchased.”

The bill entered into force on January 1.

Catalytic converters are an emission control device attached to a vehicle’s exhaust system. Coins are attractive to thieves because they are easy to remove and contain precious metals that can be sold quickly.

Law enforcement has said that stolen converters are typically sold for a few hundred dollars to a middleman, which is when the real profits kick in.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau estimates that the scrap metal in a converter is valued between $ 800 and $ 1,500.

These middlemen, officials said, entrust these converters to auto supply companies and junkyards looking for precious metals like platinum and rhodium.

While not all recyclers know converters have been stolen, some may have turned a blind eye in the past, officials said, with few checks and balances. The new law prevents this trend.

Officials describe the new system as akin to guards around beer kegs, which contain the same precious metals that make cat converters so coveted. The new bill attempts to make the resale of the auto part more difficult by restricting sales to commercial sellers only. It also requires scrap companies to keep the make, model year, vehicle identification number, and license number associated with any cat converters they purchase.

“Rather than asking for more money to fix the problem, the SB 803 gets right to the point by removing the financial incentive to steal a catalytic converter,” said Senator Kennemer.

Elected officials said communities could not count on arrests and prosecutions to solve the problem, as in recent years catalytic converter thefts have exploded as law enforcement agencies like the Service Gresham Police Station and the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office are understaffed.

The Portland Tribune and its parent company Pamplin Media Group are the media partners of KOIN 6 News

“This legislation has won broad support from legislators, law enforcement agencies and the scrap metal industry,” said Senator Gorsek. “This will keep Oregonians statewide from falling victim to catalytic converter theft while preserving law enforcement’s limited resources for other serious crimes.”

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