A new bill filed in the General Assembly aims to put a dent in the sale of stolen catalytic converters by changing rules and increasing the penalty for stealing them.
House Bill 78, sponsored by Rep. Eric Morrison, D-Glasgow, would update the definition of catalytic converters, limit who is able to buy and sell them, increase the penalties for taking catalytic converters, and require they be held for longer before being sold.
Morrison was not immediately available for comment.
The bill has 10 cosponsors, including nine Democrats and one Republican, Rep. Mike Ramone, R-Pike Creek.
Ramone said he signed on partly because at least two family members and about four people at his fitness centers have had their catalytic converters stolen.
This bill will slow the resale process at salvage yards or other auto parts locations by requiring the buys to wait 48 hours before paying a seller, he said.
“So a piece doesn’t go to a salvage yard and immediately gets recycled,” Ramone said. “It has to sit around, gotta log it in.”
The theft of catalytic converters is an issue nationally.
The National Insurance Crime Bureau says it has increased because the price of the precious metals inside a converter – platinum, palladium or rhodium – has increased since 2020.
According to the Delaware State Police, catalytic converter theft has increased from 17 in 2016 to 1,071 in 2021.
Ramone said his only concern about the bill is that Delaware is such a small state people will take the converters out of state.
“But some of the surrounding states have similar informational processes,” he said. “A crook is always a crook and they’ll find a way to get around whatever we try to do, but at least we’ll slow them down and give the police some tools.”
Catalytic converter theft
Thefts not only cost individuals, but all kinds of other organizations. School bus depots have to be on constant alert to guard against theft.
Red Clay Consolidated School District’s bus depot now has drivers working overnight shifts to deter thefts.
So far, they haven’t caught anyone in action, but they’ve found three holes cut in the chain link fence surrounding one of their lots, which likely stopped the thefts, said Kelly Shahan, Red Clay’s transportation manager.
She said she’s seen video from another bus yard of the thief laying down on a sled with wheels and propelling himself under a row of buses, snipping 10 converters loose in a few moments.
Ramone believes more people are stealing catalytic converters because of the rocky economy.
The House minority leader blames it on runaway inflation, excessive increases in minimum wage and the state not having enough affordable day cares so they can join the workforce.
That creates an environment where some people think it’s more beneficial to not work than it is to work, he said.
The subject of catalytic converters is not new to the state legislature.
Last year, House Bill 296 added catalytic converters to the list of items that scrap metal processors make a record of purchasing or otherwise acquiring.
The goal of that bill also was to help combat the increase in catalytic converter thefts.
Ramone said he doesn’t know specifically what impact it had, but police are able to get more information when they go to salvage yards.
House Bill 78 has been sent to the Public Safety & Homeland Security Committee in the House but no hearing is yet scheduled.
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