Catalytic Converter Removal at a Salvage Yard dg

An SUV’s catalytic converter is removed at a salvage yard.

Gov. Jared Polis signed two bills into law Tuesday that aim to address the unprecedented rise in thefts of catalytic converters across the state.

Effective immediately, Senate Bill 9 requires auto part recyclers to consult with a national database to determine whether a catalytic converter has been stolen and allows more law enforcement resources and agencies, including the Commodity Metals Theft Task Force, to investigate the thefts.

House Bill 1217 creates an annual $300,000 grant program to raise awareness of catalytic converter theft through public information campaigns, theft prevention, victim assistance and catalytic converter identification and tracking efforts.

“Catalytic converter theft has become a huge problem here in Colorado and throughout our nation, and it’s only getting worse,” said Sen. Joann Ginal, D-Fort Collins, who sponsored the bills. “Coloradans depend on their cars for everyday things like getting to work and picking up groceries, and an inoperable car can cause real harm and unnecessary costs. This new law will help us crack down on those thefts." 

In Colorado, thefts of exhaust emission control devices increased by more than 5,000% from 2019 to 2021, going from 189 to 9,811 reported thefts annually, according to the Colorado Auto Theft Prevention Authority. In Denver, the thefts rose by 15,000% in the same timeframe – from 15 to 2,359, according to data from the Denver Police Department.

Without a catalytic converter, vehicles become legally and sometimes functionally inoperable. Because of the massive rise in thefts nationwide, it is difficult to replace catalytic converters, leading to weeks- or months-long wait periods for parts that can cost between $1,000 and $5,000.

Though both bills enjoy bipartisan support and sponsorship, only Republicans voted against them on the floor. Critics have said the bills won’t address supply issues that result in long wait times and expensive replacement parts.

“Coloradans needing aftermarket catalytic converters are still negatively impacted,” said David Cardella, CEO of the Colorado Independent Automobile Dealers Association, arguing that the bills do not go far enough. “Businesses are losing time and money. Citizens can’t get to work, get their kids to school or drive to appointments or the grocery store.”

The Colorado legislature also passed a third bill to address the thefts that has not yet been signed into law. If enacted, Senate Bill 179 would allow civil penalties for offenses related to catalytic converter thefts, including fines ranging from $200 to $15,000, depending on the number of violations.

The civil penalties would apply to any tampering of a vehicle’s emission control system, including using or selling a vehicle with a tampered emission control system and using or selling parts that bypass the emission control system. These regulations would go into effect in 2024 and all fees resulting from them would help fund the grant program created under HB-1217.

Polis has until Friday to sign or veto SB-179 — 30 days following the end of the 2022 legislative session — after which the bill would automatically become law without his signature.

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