News Releases

February 22, 2022: District Attorney Gascón Sponsors Legislation to Curb Catalytic Converter Thefts

Greg Risling, Assistant Chief
(213) 257-2000

Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón was joined today by state lawmakers and Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore in support of legislation to reduce catalytic converter thefts.

“Catalytic converters have become a popular target of theft because they contain valuable metals and are untraceable and easy to sell,” District Attorney Gascón said. “This bill will give law enforcement important tools that will reduce property crime and save consumers the money and hassle of replacing the stolen parts.”

District Attorney Gascón thanked State Sens. Thomas Umberg (D-Santa Ana) and Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) and Chief Moore for their support of this legislation. He also recognized Deputy District Attorneys Seza Mikikian and Alex Karkanen for their help in drafting the bill.

"For whatever reason, car-part thieves are perceived as empty-headed. The reality, however, is that catalytic converter theft can be quite lucrative,” said Sen. Umberg. “This bill is an important step forward in protecting California consumers, aiding our law enforcement agencies with enforcement, and continuing to crack down on illegal and environmentally-degrading car-part and vehicle disposal. We owe it to our communities to be more responsible, as a state, in regulating these illegal activities."

“Catalytic converter thefts are rising and serious. It is a crime that is affecting an increasing number of families in the 25th State Senate District and across the state. We must enact tougher law enforcement strategies and penalties to combat it,” said Sen. Portantino. “SB 986 offers a simple commonsense solution to eliminating the legal challenges of prosecuting the theft of catalytic converters. The bill will also result in a reduction of thefts of used converters, which is good news for both victims and law enforcement. I am proud to be a joint author of this measure with Senator Umberg and I look forward to working with him to curb the rise of catalytic converter thefts in our state.”

“I’m encouraged by the bill’s focus on accountability for the recycling businesses as they play a key part in the cycle of a catalytic converter theft,” said Chief Moore. “I believe the added responsibilities of confirming the identity of the person in possession of a catalytic converter will help to disincentivize people who are looking to make a quick profit. In addition, having the VIN etched on the catalytic converter provides law enforcement with a way to identify the victim of a theft when they find individuals or businesses in possession of a catalytic converter.”

Senate Bill 986 would prohibit automobile dealers and retailers from selling a new vehicle unless a vehicle identification number (VIN) has been engraved or etched onto the catalytic converter.

It also would prohibit the cash sales of used catalytic converters by requiring core recyclers to accept only traceable payment methods, such as a credit card.

Catalytic converters, which are used to turn hazardous exhaust into less harmful gases, are made of highly valuable metals such as platinum and can be worth up to $1,200.

The exhaust emission control devices currently are untraceable. Without a unique identifying feature, like a VIN, it is nearly impossible for law enforcement to prove that a particular catalytic converter was stolen.

There has been a sharp rise in catalytic converter thefts nationwide since the COVID-19 pandemic began, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau. California is among the top five states for catalytic converter thefts, according to the agency.

Last October, District Attorney Gascón called upon four major automobile manufacturers to work with his office to find creative solutions to address the rise in catalytic converter thefts in Los Angeles County.

District Attorney Gascón spearheaded a similar effort to reduce cell phone theft when he was San Francisco’s top prosecutor. He sponsored legislation making California the first state requiring kill switches on cell phones that make the device inoperable if it is stolen.