Clock Ticking on Massachusetts Bill to Curb Catalytic Converter Theft
A catalytic converter is a car part that, due to its relative ease of theft and high value on the market, has been a target for fences throughout Massachusetts and the country trying to make a quick buck.
If car owners don't have comprehensive insurance to cover catalytic converter theft, they could be on the hook for a major expense.
Recently, three individuals were arrested in New Bedford in connection to a catalytic converter theft. However. due to the fact that with a reciprocating saw it only takes approximately 10 minutes to remove a catalytic converter, these crimes are very difficult for law enforcement to track.
State Rep. Steven Howitt (R-Seekonk) has legislation that, if passed, will make the sale of stolen catalytic converters more difficult by requiring all businesses licensed to purchase them to keep records of the transaction that are readily available to the police.
Businesses will be required to record the name and identification of the seller, and the make and model of the vehicle it came from.
"What we're trying to do is help dry up the market," Howitt said during a recent appearance on WBSM's SouthCoast Tonight.
The law would also require the businesses to write a check, instead of paying cash, to the seller of the catalytic converter and the business would have to hold the item for 10 days before reselling it.
Accompanying the regulations is a system of fines in place for businesses that fail to comply.
Howitt said that he is a victim of catalytic converter theft himself, and that he's heard myriad incidents from constituents and car dealerships being similarly victimized by this crime.
According to Howitt, over 25 states have laws on the books dealing with catalytic converter theft and he recently spoke with a state rep in Rhode Island who is working on similar legislation.
Howitt said that the bill, which passed with bipartisan support in the House, is at risk of dying in the Senate if it is not passed in the upper chamber before the end of the legislative session in approximately two weeks. If that happens, Howitt will need to refile the bill in the next legislative session beginning in January.
He said that refiling means the bill would have to once again go through the entire legislative process and it would be at least a year before the bill has a chance to be enacted into law.
"In the meantime, you have people who are suffering financially, you have people who are suffering from not being able to use their vehicle," Howitt said.
According to Howitt, Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) is working with legislators in the upper chamber as well as representatives of the Massachusetts State Police, the Massachusetts Police Chiefs Association, and the car dealership industry to get the bill passed before the end of session so that it can be signed into law by Governor Charlie Baker.
Howitt said that there were national scrapyard industries who had voiced some concern with the proposed law because the added paperwork they would have complete, but he doesn't believe any of his colleagues on Beacon Hill would be against the law.
"I think anyone would would be against it, is pretty much aiding and abetting the thieves," he said. "Because they're encouraging them to continue in this illegal activity."
Listen to Rep. Steve Howitt's interview on SouthCoast Tonight: