LA City Council gives tentative OK to catalytic-converter-theft ordinance

City News Service
Wednesday, March 22, 2023
LA City Council seeks to crack down on catalytic converter theft
The measure would require someone who possesses an unattached catalytic converter to prove ownership.

LOS ANGELES (CNS) -- The Los Angeles City Council tentatively approved an ordinance Wednesday that would prohibit unlawful possession of catalytic converters in an effort to curb the rise in thefts the city has experienced in the past five years.

According to the motion, which was presented in April 2022 by Councilmen John Lee and Paul Krekorian and then-Councilman Mitch O'Farrell, 972 catalytic converters were reported stolen across the city in 2018.

But by 2022, the city reported almost 8,000 catalytic converters thefts - a nearly 728% increase just within the last five years, Lee said Tuesday.

"When crime data show this kind of escalation, I believe at this time we need to act," Lee said.

Lee explained the ordinance would require someone who's in possession of an unattached catalytic converter to produce a form of valid documentation that would prove they are in lawful possession of the device.

A catalytic converter is an exhaust emission control device that converts toxic gases and pollutants in exhaust from an internal combustion engine into less-toxic pollutants.

"Catalytic converter thefts are on the rise nationwide, and California has the dubious honor of leading the country in the number of converters stolen," according to the motion. "Because of the external location and the use of valuable precious metals, these devices are a target for thieves."

Councilwoman Eunisses Hernandez opposed the ordinance as drafted because she felt it would cause more harm than good, particularly to vulnerable communities.

"I believe that we should be supporting our communities, educating our families and educating car owners about this issue that's occurring very frequently, but to criminalize the mere possession of a catalytic converter, I think, is the wrong way to go," Hernandez said.

Under the ordinance, she noted, Angelenos can be fined $1,000 or be placed in jail for six months if they are found guilty of unlawful possession of an unattached catalytic converter.

"Even a short incarceration of a couple of days can destabilize someone's life forever and leads to collateral consequences that they have to carry until they can get an expungement, if they can get that," Hernandez said.

Council members Marqueece Haris-Dawson, Nithya Raman, Hugo Soto-Martinez and Hernandez voted against the motion in the 8-4 vote. The issue will return to the council for a final vote in April.