We already knew the catalytic converter situation in Connecticut was out of control.
And then it got worse when Farmington Officer James O’Donnell was very seriously injured in September when he was hit by a fleeing stolen vehicle when he went to the scene of a suspected catalytic converter theft. O’Donnell’s already had two surgeries and was expecting a third.
Somehow a Windsor Locks detective avoided injury in a separate incident this year in which an alleged catalytic converter thief drove at his car and missed it only by inches, police have said. In Wallingford this year, police warned people to avoid confronting thieves after one allegedly fired a gun during a catalytic converter theft.
Police have reported thefts in numerous towns, for example when thieves in Windsor Locks stole 26 converters from a plumbing and heating contractor and in Glastonbury, where thefts increased to 56 in less than three full months in 2022, with 14 total in 2020, according to police data.
These thefts have occurred across the state, causing damage to numerous vehicles — including school buses — and have brought very costly repairs to motorists, according to lawmakers.
The converters can be sawed off vehicles very quickly and are valuable to thieves because they contain precious metals and are easily resold.
But now a revised bill has passed the state legislature that would crack down on these thefts by tightening up on the rules for those who might receive or deal in the catalytic converters.
The bill would prohibit motor vehicle recyclers from receiving a catalytic converter that is not attached to a vehicle. As The Courant’s Chris Keating has reported: That move is designed to stop criminals from cutting converters off cars and bringing them to junkyards and recyclers in return for cash.
The idea is, frankly, genius: If few will buy the detached product, why would anyone bother to steal it from someone else?
According to the legislature’s Office of Legislative Research report on the bill, in reference to scrap metal processors, junk dealers, and junk yard owners and operators, it also would establish “recordkeeping requirements and other conditions for receiving a catalytic converter that is not attached to a vehicle.” Further, the ORL report notes, it would prohibit “anyone other than a motor vehicle recycler or motor vehicle repair shop from selling more than one unattached converter to a scrap metal processor, junk dealer, or junk yard owner or operator in a day.”
These new record-keeping requirements would be extensive and would even require certain transactions to include “a clear photograph or video of the seller, the seller’s driver’s license or identity card, and the converter,” according to the ORL report.
As Keating has reported, the 10-page bill also would require transactions by check, not cash, and the junk dealers would need to file weekly reports with the state police on their transactions in a closely watched system.
“A lot of it is paperwork and identification processing,” state Sen. Dan Champagne, a former police sergeant, has said. “Paperwork of where the catalytic converters came from.”
And would anyone want to steal a catalytic converter if they have to have their photo taken when they try to sell it? We think not.
We think the requirements have a good chance of cutting down on the illegal market for these converters.
Cutting down on the illegal market would mean a lot more security for motorists and hopefully fewer risks for law enforcement. Gov. Ned Lamont should sign this bill.