Catalytic Converter

A catalytic converter is seen in this photo from amazon.com. A law taking effect July 1 aims to make it harder to steal and sell catalytic converters.

A consumer protection law meant to put the brakes on the theft and resale of catalytic converters across Tennessee takes effect July 1.

The law will be administered through the Tennessee Department of Commerce & insurance’s Division of Regulatory Boards.

Thefts of the vehicle exhaust emission devices are regularly reported to the Greeneville Police Department and Greene County Sheriff’s Department.

Catalytic converters are used to reduce the toxic gases and pollutants created by vehicles’ internal combustion engines. The innocuous-looking devices contain precious metals and “have drawn increased interest from thieves who aim to make a quick buck by stealing them from Tennesseans’ vehicles and then reselling them for ill-gotten profits,” a TDCI news release said.

Catalytic converter thefts are “a growing problem for consumers and law enforcement officials alike,” the release said.

Reported thefts of converters climbed to 1,203 a month in 2020 compared to 282 a month in 2019, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

To combat the rising numbers of catalytic converter thefts, TDCI’s Scrap Metal Registration Program announced the new consumer law. As of July 1, the law requires:

  • Any person engaged in the business of buying and/or selling scrap metal, including unattached catalytic converters as a single item and not as part of a scrapped motor vehicle, must give written notification to the chief of police and sheriff of each city and county in which the activity occurs.
  • Any person purchasing a used, detached catalytic converter must be registered as a scrap metal dealer pursuant to the law.

Registering with TDCI’s Scrap Metal Registration Program includes

  • providing either a state or federally issued photo identification card with an address and a thumbprint, submitting an application, paying the appropriate fee and meeting all requirements under the law.
  • A scrap metal dealer should not purchase or otherwise acquire a used, detached catalytic converter, or any nonferrous metal part of such converter unless the used, detached catalytic converter is purchased at the fixed site of the scrap metal dealer in an in-person transaction.
  • The scrap metal dealer must maintain a fixed site and obtain, verify and maintain all identification and documentation required by the law, and obtain and maintain a copy of the seller’s license or a copy of the documentation and vehicle registration.
  • To view the catalytic converter anti-theft bill, go to: https://publications.tnsosfiles.com/acts/112/pub/pc0213.pdf

“This new law was created with the input of scrap metal professionals in order to create greater protections for hardworking consumers and business owners,” TDCI Assistant Commissioner Alex Martin said.

Martin said the law “will ensure that unattached catalytic converters being sold to dealers originated from salvaged or wrecked vehicles and were not stolen from vehicles. This new oversight will reduce the inconvenience and expense for consumers who have to spend hundreds of dollars to repair their vehicle.”

Violations of the new law can result in a Class A misdemeanor charge. The seller of a detached, stolen catalytic converter is also liable to the victim for the repair and replacement of the converter, according to the law.

The Tennessee Scrap Recyclers Association supports the legislation.

“Due to the critical issue of converter theft rising at such an unprecedented rate over the past year, we knew that stricter laws were needed to protect the citizens of Tennessee. Working with the State of Tennessee and law enforcement, we were able to pass the best catalytic converter law in the country,” TSRA President Ross Litz said in the release.

Thieves target catalytic converters because they contain small amounts of precious metals like platinum, palladium or rhodium.

Replacing a catalytic converter can cost in excess of $1,000.

Catalytic converters have been reported stolen recently from vehicles in business and industry parking lots, along with residential driveways. Many vehicles targeted are sport utility vehicles, vans and trucks with higher ground clearance than cars. Some were parked in relatively remote sections of business parking lots or other out-of-the way locations.

“Understanding when your car might be a target for catalytic converter theft is the first key to preventing it,” according to Allstate.

Taking protective measures may help deter thieves. Allstate offers the following catalytic converter theft prevention tips:

  • When possible, park in well-lit areas and close to building entrances.
  • Vehicle owners who have a garage should park their car inside and keep the garage door shut.
  • Have the catalytic converter welded to a car’s frame, which may make it harder to steal.
  • Consider engraving the vehicle identification number on the catalytic converter — this may help alert a scrap dealer that it was stolen and make it easier to identify the owner.
  • Calibrate the car’s alarm to set off when it detects vibration.

To learn more about the TDCI’s Scrap Metal Registration Program, contact the state agency by email at scrap.metals@tn.gov or visit https://www.tn.gov/commerce/regboards/scrap.html.