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The San Diego District Attorney’s office and the Chula Vista Police Department partnered with Sen. Brian Jones in introducing legislation that aims to decrease catalytic converter thefts in California.

If passed, Assembly Bill 919 would require all new and used car dealerships to permanently engrave the car’s vehicle identification number onto the converter. Metal recyclers are allowed to buy catalytic converters with visible and untampered VIN only. 

Maintaining a detailed record of the transaction and making it accessible to law enforcement is required under this bill. 

With this legislation, the fine and jail time for buying, selling, or possessing a stolen catalytic converter will increase. According to State Farm, California is leading the nation in catalytic converter thefts. 

The insurance company reported it paid $62.6 million for 32,265 catalytic converter theft claims nationally, a 1,173 percent increase from 2019. There were a total of 4,507 catalytic converter theft claims in 2020, costing the insurance company over $10.8 million. 

San Diego District Attorney Summer Stephan says AB 919 will help her office prosecute criminals who steal the vehicle part.

“Police responded to a 911 call, and arrested the two men in progress – this makes this case provable, but if they had gotten away and they were caught later with those catalytic converters it would be very difficult for us to prosecute,” said Stephan describing the difficulty prosecutors face in regards to the issue. “There is no way to tie a catalytic converter from a particular vehicle from where it was stolen,” said Stephan.

The legislation is sponsored by the Chula Vista Police Department, which has now purchased engraving systems to be able to permanently engrave residents’ VIN to their catalytic converters. Stolen catalytic converters can bring the thief up to $250, yet cost the motorist up to $4,000 to replace, according to a report by the California Bureau of Automotive Repair. 

California Senate Business, Professional and Economic Development Committee will hold a hearing for the bill on April 4.

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