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L.A. City Council Advances Ordinance to Fine Catalytic Converter Thieves $1,000 or Jail Them for Six Months

7:27 PM PDT on March 21, 2023

catalytic converter

The City Council tentatively approved an ordinance today 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. In 2022, the city reported almost 8,000 catalytic converters thefts, a nearly 728% increase just within the last five years, Lee said during Tuesday's City Council meeting. "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 gasses and pollutants in exhaust gas from an internal combustion engine into less-toxic pollutants, the motion read. "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 Monica Rodriguez thanked Lee for his motion and said the thefts affected the most vulnerable neighborhoods in the city. However, 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.

She also supported further discussion with the Los Angeles Police Department and other stakeholders on how to solve the issue and possibly implement more solutions to prevent the theft of catalytic converters. Council members Marqueece Haris-Dawson, Nithya Raman, Hugo Soto-Martinez, and Hernandez voted against the motion in an 8-4 vote. The issue will return to the council for a final vote in April.

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