Minnesota moves to crack down on catalytic converter thefts

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The Minnesota Senate has voted to make it harder for thieves to sell stolen catalytic converters, a crime that has skyrocketed across the country in recent years.

According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, thefts of the pollution control devices more than quadrupled from 2019 to 2020 and jumped dramatically again in 2021. A major reason is the sharp rise in prices for the precious metals in converters.

“It’s going to have an impact on reducing theft in this state,” the chief sponsor, Democratic Sen John Marty, of Roseville, said during the floor debate, noting that the bill, which passed by a 40-25 vote, has strong support from law enforcement. “I think it’s going to have a big impact on it.”

The Minnesota bill is similar to model legislation that the International Association of Auto Theft Investigators is promoting across the country. The group has said the bill should serve as an example for other states in how to tackle the problem, Marty told his colleagues.

Several Republican senators argued during the debate that the bill would be unfairly harsh to small scrap dealers that unwittingly make a mistake without deterring organized criminal groups that can smuggle stolen converters out of state.

“This bill is not going to fix the problem,” said GOP Sen. Gary Dahms, of Redwood Falls. “This is one of those feel-good bills, if you folks that are voting for this could go back your districts and say how much you’ve done when you’ve done nothing.”

Minnesota ranks third for converter thefts behind California and Texas. Experts say the parts are easy to steal, easy to sell, there is little risk of being caught, and even less risk of being prosecuted.