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OUR VIEW: Catalytic effort requires changes

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A catalytic converter at South Shores Auto Service in Decatur is shown. The catalytic converter contains precious metals that are attractive to thieves.

We’re long past the point of thinking laws against devastating theft concludes concerns about theft.

The solution to catalytic converter theft will take a multi-pronged effort.

The widespread use of catalytic converters began in 1975. The United States Environmental Protection Agency instituted stricter regulation of exhaust emissions.

The precious metals required to manufacture catalytic converters -- platinum, palladium and rhodium – have spiked in price. That makes the device valuable.

To work effectively, catalytic converters need to be at 752 degrees Fahrenheit. So they’re placed near the engine, and for a person with the right knowledge and right tools, removing the converters is not a difficult task. Thieves aren’t attending months or years or extra classes to learn how to take them. The theft can take place in minutes.

There’s one more step – finding someone willing to pay for the part. Thefts of the converters would not be so widespread without an underground market to acquire them.

And they cost $2,000-plus to replace. State Farm Insurance said its customers’ claims for catalytic converter thefts jumped 175% between June of 2020 and June of 2021.

Nationwide, claims of catalytic converter thefts have increased from 4,500 to 18,000 between July 1, 2020, and June 30, 2021 — about 293%. Illinois is the fifth in claims for catalytic converter thefts.

State law is precise about what is allowed and what is not. The Recyclable Metal Purchase Registration Law includes provisions outlawing the sale of a catalytic converter by anyone other than a licensed parts recycler or a scrap processor, data on names and dates of exchanges (including photo ID), and photographs or video of items exchanged, to specify just a few provisions.

Penalties include a Class A misdemeanor for the first offense, and a Class 4 felony for the second or subsequent offense.

Perhaps the penalties need to be increased. The laws in place are precise. If failing to solve thefts is the problem, law enforcement needs to ask for help.

Automobile makers have responsibility as well. Theft of these valuable pieces is not a secret, nor is it new. If they can’t find a way to make converters safer within the automobiles, perhaps they will need to be directed to do just that.

It is, to repeat, a multi-pronged fight. And if you drive, this affects you. What do you think happens to your insurance when thousands are stolen?


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