The Potluck

Minnesota House passes bill to crack down on catalytic converter thefts

By: - February 20, 2023 9:01 pm

A catalytic converter can fetch $200 and cost thousands to replace. Photo by Dylan Miettinen/Minnesota Reformer.

The Minnesota House on Monday passed a bill (HF30) with broad support, 113-15,* to crack down on catalytic converter thefts. The companion bill is still making its way through the state Senate.

Minnesota is one of the worst states for catalytic converter thefts in the United States. Thefts have skyrocketed in recent years: Nationally, the National Insurance Crime Bureau estimates that thefts increased by 1,215% between 2019 and 2022. Last year, Minnesota was part of a nationwide catalytic converter theft ring bust. 

The bill’s been around for several years but never got a hearing in the GOP-held Senate. 

The bill would require catalytic converters to be labeled with the original vehicle’s VIN number once removed from the car. The legislation also adds criminal penalties for theft and additional tracking requirements for sales of the parts. Although the bill won’t prevent thieves from selling parts out of state, DFL lawmakers say the point is to make it harder to steal and sell catalytic converters. 

Catalytic converters can be sawed off in just a few minutes and scrappers can pocket hundreds of dollars per converter. Mark Kulda, a spokesperson for the Insurance Federation of Minnesota, said it’s also getting more expensive to replace a catalytic converter, and the wait times have gotten worse. 

“The body shops that fix these … they have the same supply chain and labor problems that everybody has,” Kulda said. “And they reflect that in what they charge in repair costs.” 

During a press conference ahead of the vote, West St. Paul Police Chief Brian Sturgeon said he supports and mentioned that some West St. Paul residents have had their catalytic converters stolen up to three times. 

“This is one area of criminal activity that we cannot arrest our way out of alone,” Sturgeon said. “We need prevention, we need education, we need enforcement and most importantly, we need regulation.” 

Republican Rep. Tim O’Driscoll, R-Sartell, introduced an amendment to add specifically that someone must “intentionally” purchase or possess a stolen catalytic converter in order to be charged. The amendment failed on a voice vote, and chief author of the bill Rep. Ruth Richardson, DFL-Mendota Heights, said intent is already “built into criminal law.”

*Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the vote total. 

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Grace Deng
Grace Deng

Grace Deng was a reporting intern with the Minnesota Reformer. They studied legal studies and Asian American Studies at Northwestern University. The Seattle native has previously been a statehouse intern with USA TODAY Network Ohio and an editorial fellow with Washingtonian Magazine.