City Council Working on Legislation to Combat Catalytic Converter Theft

The Legislation and Codes committee of the Yonkers City Council met on Tuesday Jan 10th. The first item discussed addressed bolstering record keeping of catalytic converters as a method to deter their theft.

Anthony Merante heads the committee and he sponsored this legislation. His proposal comes in response to constituent feedback he has been receiving about an increase in catalytic converter theft in the recent year.

Present before the committee were Matt Gallagher and Det. Lt. Dean Politopoulos. Gallagher represents the city as its corporate counsel. Politopoulos is the Public Information Officer for the Yonkers Police Department.

Supporting Merante’s sentiment on the increased severity of this issue, Gallagher reviewed the year over year numbers of logged catalytic converter thefts in the city. In 2017, there were zero reported thefts, while last year in 2022, there were 344.

Politopoulos said that the criminals were not originating within Yonkers. Rather, thieves from the Bronx and other parts of NYC are traveling into Yonkers, committing crimes, and then exiting the city to sell the catalytic convertors. A typical catalytic converter can yield over $300 on the black market by selling its precious metals.

The Proposal

The law ultimately mandates comprehensive records on the possession and transaction of catalytic converters by all parties who may touch them. This includes the obvious businesses like auto repair shops, but also pawn shops and other licensed retailers in precious metals. The YPD is granted full access to these records. Upon violation, these businesses may face the penalties of a Class III offense or up to a Class I offense for repeat violations.

Last year, the state of New York also strengthened it’s laws against catalytic converter theft. Governor Kathy Hochul announced that catalytic converters are now considered a major component vehicle part. This therefore elevates the crime of their theft. The law requires, analogous to the proposed Yonkers laws, additional record keeping from dealers and salvage yards. Furthermore, new car dealers are required to provide VIN etching kits so that a stolen catalytic converter can be matched to its origin car. Often when suspects are caught with catalytic converters, there is no way to associate them as stolen from a specific vehicle. So, the crime can go unpunished. Etching a vehicle identification number onto the catalytic converter itself will not prevent it’s theft, but it will punish the crime.

Council member from the fifth district Mike Breen gave brief comments in support as the co-sponsor of the bill. City Council President Lakisha Collins-Bellamy also supported the legislation’s intent. However, she suggested that the legislation should go even further in preventing the crime. That the record-keeping alone was positive, but insufficient. Members Rubbo and Diaz provided no comment. Members Williams and Pineda-Isaac were not in attendance.

No votes were held on this legislation as written. Though, given the support it appeared to receive, we expect more discussion and expanded language on what the City of Yonkers is prepared to do to combat the scourge of catalytic converter theft.

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