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Legislation advances to help law enforcement hold catalytic converter thieves accountable

Catalytic converter theft is rampant in California, costing victims as much as $4,000 in repairs. In 2021, 1,600 converters were stolen each month, resulting in $23 million in repair costs. To crack down on theft, Assemblymember Vince Fong (R-Central Valley) introduced legislation to bring more accountability.

“Thieves continue to steal catalytic converters, while victims foot the bill and must wait for months on end for repairs. Law enforcement needs more tools to hold thieves accountable and protect California motorists,” stated Assemblymember Fong. “This bill will help discourage theft, increase penalties on criminals, and bring relief to California families, businesses and nonprofits.”

Sheriff Mike Boudreaux of Tulare County said, “Catalytic converter theft is a massive problem across the state, especially in Tulare County, where this type of crime heavily impacts the county’s vital agricultural community. I applaud Assembly Member Vince Fong on the passage of this bill, which is going to make it that much more difficult for criminals to take advantage of hard-working Californians.”

Specifically, Assembly Bill 641 allows law enforcement to charge thieves with illegal automobile dismantling. Thieves caught with six or more stolen cut catalytic converters could be charged with unlicensed dismantling. Unlicensed vehicle dismantling is a misdemeanor with fines ranging from $250 up to $1,000 per offense.

Assembly Bill 641 cracks down on rampant catalytic converter theft and unlicensed dismantling by closing a loophole that prevents charging thieves found in possession of multiple detached converters with a crime.

Under AB 641, individuals and businesses with a legitimate purpose for possessing catalytic converters, such as a motor vehicle repair business, will remain exempt from registering as an automobile dismantler.

The president of the California Police Chiefs Association, Chief Alexander Gammelgard, stated, “It is often difficult for law enforcement to prove a crime has occurred when we find individuals with multiple detached catalytic converters, which is why AB 641 is so important. By requiring a license to carry six or more cut catalytic converters, AB 641 gives law enforcement a critical tool towards proving a crime has occurred in order to successfully combat the rampant theft of these parts.”

AB 641 passed the Assembly Transportation Committee with unanimous support. AB 641 will move to Assembly Appropriations Committee for its consideration.

Assemblyman Vince Fong represents the 32nd Assembly District, which encompasses Kern and Tulare Counties.