Arizona bill looks to fight 6,450% surge in catalytic converter theft

The bill passed the Arizona House 49-10.

Updated: March 25, 2022 - 12:16am

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An Arizona bill seeks to closely regulate the purchase and sale of catalytic converters while theft of the valuable automobile part has risen by nearly 6,450% in Phoenix.

Arizona State Rep. Diego Espinoza, D-Tolleson, sponsored a bill that would mandate catalytic converters to be tracked and sales to be reported to the Arizona Department of Public Services. The bill also would prohibit the possession, solicitation or advertising of a used catalytic converter outside of regular transactions.

The legislation seems likely to pass the Arizona Senate after passing the state House 49-10, with the only votes against it coming from Republicans.

State Rep. Jake Hoffman (R-Queen Creek), told The Arizona Sun Times that he voted "No" on the bill due to concerns over government overreach.

"The legislation was too broad and too invasive. Our nation’s founding documents make it clear that government’s job is to protect the rights of the people, yet this bill infringes on individuals’ property rights and places a tremendous burden on individual citizens," he said. "I can appreciate the intent of this legislation; however, it is, at its core, an overreach by government that will inadvertently criminalize lawful citizens."

Catalytic converters, which are used to remove pollutants from exhaust, can be stolen in minutes. Catalytic converters contain valuable platinum, palladium and rhodium and one can be sold to recyclers for $50 to $250, costing the victim up to $3,000 to replace, according to The National Insurance Crime Bureau.

The Sun Times reports 19 catalytic converter thefts were reported in Phoenix in 2019. In 2020, thefts more than tripled to 72. By 2021, the Phoenix Police Department was overwhelmed with 4,714 cases of stolen converters as the number increased by nearly 6,450% from the previous year.

"Most catalytic converters are stolen by drug addicts," the Sun Times stated.

Theft of the valuable automobile part is rising across the country.

U.S. Rep. Jim Baird (R-Ind.) introduced a bill in January to prevent theft by marking identifying information on converters and help local law enforcement prosecute the part's theft, among other things. 

"In West Central Indiana and across the country, catalytic converter theft has had a dramatic impact on vehicle and business owners, leading them to await costly repairs with few tools to prevent similar crimes in the future," Rep. Baird said in a press release. "By closing long-exploited loopholes and strengthening law enforcement’s ability to locate stolen parts and enforce the law, we can create a safer environment for vehicle owners and put a stop to these crimes once and for all."