The harm and possible crackdown on catalytic converter thefts
ELKHART, Ind.-- Congress wants to crack down on the quick and easy crime sweeping Michiana. Indiana Senator Mike Braun, and a bipartisan group of lawmakers, have introduced "The PART Act," new legislation to put an end to catalytic converter thefts.
Right now, a stolen catalytic converter is largely untraceable.
The "PART Act," or Preventing Auto Recycling Thefts Act, would require new vehicles to have the VIN number stamped onto the converter so police can link stolen parts to their origin. It would create a grant program to stamp VINs onto older cars. And it would improve regulations for buyers and make laws around these thefts punishable as crimes.
At B&D Automotive in Elkhart, owner Brian Adams is tired of being a target.
"We've had 2 thefts between September and October of last year," he said. "They stole five catalytic converters the first time, they came back in October and stole 11."
Catalytic converter thefts cost his small business about $10,000 in repairs. Not to mention the roughly $2,000 worth of security upgrades.
"This is our livelihood, this is how we feed our families," Adams said. "My daughter works here. This is how she feeds her family. And they come in and they rob and steal and there have been no consequences at all."
He's also had many customers come in to replace cut-off converters.
"They're doing it in front of houses, they're getting in driveways, businesses, people going in stores, coming out of the store, and their car is loud, and the catalytic converter is gone."
The machine parts, which filter exhaust gases before releasing them from a vehicle tailpipe, are lined with precious metals like platinum, palladium, and most valuable, rhodium.
They're easy to steal, quick to steal, and difficult to trace. A single converter can be sold for hundreds of dollars.
"The thieves are selling them to buyers, and then at the end of the day, they go to a smelter, and all the precious metals are taken out of here," he said.
last year in Elkhart, 145 catalytic converters were reported stolen, according to Elkhart police. 2023 is on pace to pass that total, with 14 thefts already reported.
Adams remains skeptical whether a new law will change much, as long as thieves can find buyers.
"If the buyers aren't honest, it's not going to do any good," he said.
While announcing the "PART Act," Sen. Braun's office cited a statistic from the National Insurance Crime Bureau," claiming, across the country, catalytic converter thefts spiked more than 325 percent from 2019 to 2020.