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Combating rising catalytic converter thefts

Catalytic converter thefts are not just a Twin Cities problem. They also take place right here in southwest Minnesota.

In June of 2021 seven felony counts and a dozen total counts were filed in Brown County District Court against a 26-year-old Granite Falls man accused of being involved with the theft of about a dozen catalytic converters in New Ulm and Nicollet last March.

In July, the Marshall Police Department said it received three different reports of stolen catalytic converters in June, with two of the thefts happening within the past few days. According to police, all three of the catalytic converters reported stolen were taken from vehicles parked outside. Two of the thefts happened overnight, while a third happened sometime in the late evening or early morning hours.

Earlier this month, a 40-year-old rural Sleepy Eye man was arrested in connection with a federal investigation into stolen catalytic converters. According to a Department of Justice press release, federal, state, and local law enforcement partners from across the United States executed a nationwide, coordinated takedown of leaders and associates of a national network of thieves, dealers, and processors for their roles in conspiracies involving stolen catalytic converters sold to a metal refinery for tens of millions of dollars.

Previous Independent editorials urged lawmakers to enact get-tough laws to discourage the theft of catalytic converters. Apparently, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar was listening. Her office announced on Tuesday that Klobuchar and Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced legislation to combat the rise in catalytic converter thefts. The Preventing Auto Recycling Thefts (PART) Act would ensure law enforcement can more effectively address these thefts by marking each converter with a traceable identification number and establishing converter thefts as a criminal offense. 

“Throughout the country, we’ve seen an alarming increase in catalytic converter thefts. These converters can be easily taken from unattended cars but are difficult and expensive for car owners to replace,” Klobuchar said. “By making catalytic converter theft a criminal offense and ensuring each converter can be easily tracked, our legislation would provide law enforcement officers with the tools and resources they need to crack down on these crimes.”

According to the release, the Act would:

• Require new vehicles to have a Vehicle Identification number (VIN) stamped onto the converter to allow law enforcement officers to link stolen parts to the vehicle from which they originate;

• Create a grant program through which entities can stamp VIN numbers onto catalytic converters of existing vehicles;

• Improve record keeping standards for purchasers of used catalytic converters; and

• Establish enforceability of laws around catalytic converter theft by codifying these crimes as a criminal offense.

 These are common-sense proposals. Congress should make the passage of this Act a Christmas present to vehicle owners in Minnesota and across the nation.

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