Gov. Walz signs bill targeting catalytic converter thefts

(ABC 6 News) – Governor Tim Walz signed a bill on Thursday to crack down on catalytic converter thefts.

Over the past few years, Minnesota auto owners have dealt with a wave of thieves detaching catalytic converters from the undersides of their vehicles. The part contains precious metals such as platinum, palladium and rhodium and can fetch a pretty penny at scrapyards.

According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, catalytic converter thefts rose by over 325% from 2019 to 2020. Replacing these parts imposes significant financial costs to vehicle owners, often between $500 to $2,300 and can even result in a total loss to the vehicle.

Recent studies of insurance claims, including one by State Farm, place Minnesota in the top five states for catalytic converter thefts which industry experts attribute to a loophole in state law that doesn’t require scrap yards to catalog their transactions.

The bill Gov. Walz signed on Thursday seeks to close that loophole: Anyone buying catalytic converter will be required to keep detailed records of who they bought it from, and people who possess the part without proper documentation could face criminal penalties.

“Too many Minnesotans have stories about the danger and financial consequences of having their catalytic converter stolen,” Walz said in a statement. “This legislation will help protect Minnesotans’ property and bring peace of mind. Those who commit these brazen crimes should know that there will be accountability.”

Possessing a freestanding catalytic converter will be allowed as long as it’s marked with the date the part was removed and the original vehicle’s identification number or if it’s been certified for reuse as a replacement part.

Penalties range from a misdemeanor for possessing, acquiring or purchasing a single catalytic converter to a felony carrying a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000 for offenses involving more than 70 converters.

Last November, the Rochester Police Department distributed free catalytic converter marking kits as part of the Minnesota Department of Commerce’s pilot program to cut down on thefts.

RELATED: Rochester police distributing catalytic converter marking kits

The bill, HF 30, gained final passage in the Legislature last week. It is set to go into effect on Aug. 1.