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House considering bill to fight catalytic converter theft

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — As catalytic converter thefts increase across the country, the Missouri House is set to debate a bill meant to curb the issue. 

HB 1153, sponsored by Rep. Don Mayhew, would change penalties for the theft of a catalytic converter, adding it to the offense of stealing. The first offense would be a Class A misdemeanor while any subsequent theft within a decade would be a Class E felony. Mayhew said theft was an issue for communities across the state.

“In the midst of other epidemics, we’re experiencing one of catalytic converter theft,” Mayhew told The Missouri Times. “It’s going to be a constant problem, and just about every community has been hit with it. Unfortunately, it’s low on the radar for most law enforcement because it’s difficult to catch and even more difficult to prosecute. The purpose is to provide law enforcement with the tools they need to go after some of these folks.”

According to a recent report from the National Insurance Crime Bureau, thefts skyrocketed across the U.S. last March as the COVID-19 pandemic gripped the country. The same report said 17 other state legislatures were considering similar actions.   

The issue came to Mayhew’s attention when his local health department board approached him about three converters that were stolen off of their mobile clinic vehicle, he said, with each replacement costing $5,000. He noted the issue reached beyond those who had catalytic converters stolen given the impact on insurance rates.

Mayhew said he saw pushback on provisions relating to scrap yards; the bill would require scrap dealers to provide proof that the product was lawfully acquired and mandate possession of the converter for five days before modifying it with violations resulting in a Class B misdemeanor. Mayhew said he discussed tweaks as the bill moved through the committee process and was glad to have a start on addressing the issue. 

“I’m willing to change some of the aspects to make it a little less difficult for salvage yards, but it’s a conversation we’re going to need to have,” he said. “Somebody’s buying them, and it’s the folks who move these through the system. The bill we passed out is a compromise to address some of the concerns with those folks.”

Rep. Becky Ruth, who chairs the House Transportation Committee which already passed the bill, said she would work with him to address the issue, pledging to help “deter these criminals and bad actors.”