Huntington Beach

New law on converter theft

CATALYTIC CONVERTER theft is way up, and Huntington Beach has adopted an ordinance banning the unlawful possession of one (GGPD graphic).

By Carolina Valencia/Orange County Tribune

An ordinance designed to deter the theft of catalytic converters from automobiles was passed unanimously this week by the Huntington Beach City Council. The ordinance prohibits the unlawful possession of catalytic converters in the city.

A catalytic converter, an exhaust emission control device, helps to reduce pollutants harmful to people and the environment. Catalytic converters are highly valued for precious metals such as platinum, palladium, rhodium and more.

Thefts are on the rise nationally, with three out of 10 theft claims filed in California , according to State Farm Insurance. 

“Catalytic converter theft has risen 300 percent nationwide over the last year. Due to the increasing costs of the metals found within catalytic converters, and the quickness in which this crime occurs, it has unfortunately become more common,” said Jennifer Carey, the Huntington Beach public information officer.

Altogether, the metals in catalytic converters are valued at about $11,000 per ounce, according to the Huntington Beach agenda item.  It costs around $2,000 for car owners to replace.

Under the ordinance, a violation would be prosecuted as a misdemeanor with fines not exceeding $1,000, imprisonment up to six months, or both.

“The ordinance will allow HBPD with the opportunity to charge suspects in unlawful possession of catalytic converters. The ordinance not only provides HBPD with one more tool, it also acts as a deterrent to those planning to steal catalytic converters in Huntington Beach,” Carey said.

Catalytic converter thefts have risen in the past few years. In 2019, there 49 thefts reported in Huntington Beach compared to the 461 thefts that were reported in 2021, according to the staff presentation of the first reading of the ordinance at the Huntington Beach City Council meeting April 5 .

“This is on, I think, on the police reports everyday, everyday, it’s outrageous,” said Mayor Barbara Delgleize at the April 5 city council meeting. “The good news is our ordinance will go into effect.”

But Huntington Beach is not the only city with this issue.

Other cities in Orange County have taken action with this issue.

Mission Viejo approved an ordinance that would establish regulations to prohibit the unlawful possession of catalytic converters in the city on April 12.

Orange County Sheriff’s Department Captain Quyen Vuong presented at the Mission Viejo meeting for the first reading of the ordinance. According to county data, in 2019 there were only 11 thefts reported, 70 thefts reported in 2020 and 182 thefts in 2021.

In Irvine, 535 catalytic converters were stolen in 2021 compared to 31 stolen in 2019.

Other counties in the area have also seen a rise in thefts.

In San Diego, more than 2,000 catalytic converters were reported stolen last year and reports as of December 2021 show that catalytic converter thefts increased by 423% in a year, according to District Attorney Summer Stephan. 

In Sacramento, state senators are hoping to pass a law regarding this issue. Data from the first half of 2021 showed that California is the leading state with catalytic converter thefts, according to State Farm. 

In the past year, more catalytic converters were stolen in California last year (18,000) than in any other state, according to State Senator Brian Jones, who introduced a senate bill this year regarding catalytic converter theft.

Senate bill 919 looks to deter the crime of catalytic converter thefts. One way is to require new and used car dealers to permanently mark the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) on the catalytic converter of a vehicle before selling it. This would be used to identify the catalytic converter, in the case that it is stolen.

The bill was approved unanimously by the Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee on April 5 and the Public Safety committee will have a hearing regarding the bill on April 26.

The Huntington Beach ordinance will require an individual to have the following forms of proof of ownership:

• license plate and VIN of the car from which the catalytic converter was removed

• name, address, phone # of vehicle owner

•  signature of owner authorizing removal of catalytic converter

• name address phone number of current catalytic converter owner

“I was surprised that this type of ordinance didn’t already exist,” said Councilmember Natalie Moser at the April 5 meeting. “I think it’s great that we are able to kind of fill in this gap.”

The ordinance will take effect in a month.



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