Kaplan urges Hochul to sign bill to curb catalytic converter thefts

Kaplan urges Hochul to sign bill to curb catalytic converter thefts
State Sen. Anna Kaplan (D-North Hills) urged Gov. Kathy Hochul to sign a law aimed at preventing the theft of catalytic converters into law. (Photo courtesy of the senator's office)

State Sen. Anna Kaplan (D-North Hills) urged Gov. Kathy Hochul to sign legislation aimed at prohibiting the sale of catalytic converters by dismantlers and scrap processors into law Monday.

Nearly 1,300 catalytic converters have been stolen throughout Nassau County since the beginning of the year, compared to just 131 last year, officials from the Nassau County Police Department said during a meeting of the Lakeville Estates Civic Association several weeks ago. Catalytic converters use a chamber to transform harmful engine emissions into safe gases before they get released in the air.

The legislation, which has been passed in the state Assembly and Senate, would impose restrictions on selling catalytic converters and require all qualified dealerships to carry etching kits to offer to anyone purchasing a new vehicle.

“We need to give our law enforcement the tools and resources they need, and while I’ve been proud to deliver more funding to our police to help them keep our community safe, we can still do more to address the theft of catalytic converters in our community,” Kaplan, a co-sponsor of the bill, said in a statement.

Etching kits allow for a catalytic converter to be marked so that it makes it more difficult for thieves to resale the converter to other dealers. While it is illegal to resell catalytic converters, Det. Sgt. Jeffrey Raymond, the commanding officer of the Nassau County Police Department’s Burglary Pattern Crime Squad, said the precious metals found in catalytic converters — rhodium, platinum and palladium — can be worth significant money.

According to a report from Kitco.com, one of the world’s largest precious metal retailers, the price of rhodium is more than $12,000 per ounce, with palladium coming in at more than $2,000 per ounce and platinum worth nearly $900 per ounce as of July. The report said that the price of those precious metals has increased since the start of the 21st century. Other reports have credited the overall rise in stolen converters to how easy it is for individuals to steal them.

The legislation will also ensure necessary record-keeping and documentation for catalytic converter owners and dealerships who sell them is properly filed to help prevent thieves from reselling the materials. Various fines will be enacted if the required documentation is not filed properly.

Efforts to reach a representative from Hochul’s office for comment were unavailing.

Raymond said locking cars and parking them in a garage or protected/monitored driveway area are the two best ways to protect against people stealing the converters. He also noted that bail reform laws and New York’s Raise the Age laws make it difficult for police to ensure that the individuals who commit these crimes are not able to do so again.

“Unfortunately with Raise the Age…it affects us,” Raymond said. “There are no repercussions for them. What we’re seeing is a lot of younger kids, 15, 16, 17 years old, coming here, working for an organization…to steal high-end cars, bring them over to New Jersey, get paid for it and if they get arrested, nothing happens to them.”

In 2017, New York raised the age of criminal responsibility to at least 18 years old. The civil age of majority and age of criminal responsibility is 18 in both New York and New Jersey. Any juvenile case for an individual 13 years or older can be transferred to an adult court in New York. In New Jersey, a discretionary and presumptive waiver can be used for youth 15 years or older that meet certain criteria.

From Jan. 1- Mar. 31, more than 300 stolen vehicle reports were filed with the county’s police department, a 255% increase from the same time frame last year, according to statistics.

Officials said nearly 90 percent of the 11,000 people arrested in the county in 2021 were released without bail. More than 300 of those individuals were released without bail following a weapons-related offense, according to officials.

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