Catalytic converter thieves could face stiffer penalties in Riverside County


JEFF HORSEMAN | Contributed

Stolen catalytic converters can cost drivers thousands of dollars to replace.

A proposed ordinance before Riverside County supervisors seeks to make converter theft even more costly for criminals.

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Aug. 29, will consider tougher penalties for stealing the pollution-fighting devices.

The ordinance would make it illegal in the county’s unincorporated areas for anyone to possess a converter that is not attached to a vehicle, unless they have proof of ownership. Currently, police can’t seize an unattached converter unless a victim can be identified, a memo to supervisors states.

Violators could be jailed for up to a year, fined up to $1,000 or both. They also could face civil penalties ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 for each offense.

Converter theft is one of the fastest-rising crimes in the nation, with State Farm insurance recording a 400% increase since 2019, the county memo states. There were at least 200 reports of converter thefts in Riverside County in 2022 and 316 have been reported this year as of July, according to the draft ordinance.

The devices are lucrative for thieves who remove converters’ precious metals such as rhodium, palladium and platinum and sell them.

San Bernardino County and the cities of Los Angeles, Upland and Eastvale are among the local governments that have passed their own anti-converter theft ordinances.

“Catalytic converter theft is very costly to victims of this crime, both in dollars and in the time and inconvenience of repairs, and has affected individuals, businesses, and government agencies,” the county memo states.

“Passage of a local ordinance could help hold thieves accountable and discourage theft in unincorporated areas of Riverside County.”

Supervisors could give preliminary approval to the ordinance Tuesday, with final passage scheduled for the coming weeks.

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