Prince, Wulterkens: Why is Texas stronger on catalytic-converter theft than Minnesota is?

The theft of a catalytic converter can happen to anyone who owns a vehicle. It happens in minutes. It happens more and more often throughout Minnesota.

Replacing a stolen catalytic converter is hugely expensive for the victim.

It means a quick buck for the perpetrator.

But the people who really profit from the theft of catalytic converters (from the vehicles of ordinary people simply going about their business and trying to make ends meet at the end of the month), the people who have the most to gain by keeping Minnesota laws weak and ineffectual, are the owners of scrap metal yards who can resell the rare metals inside catalytic converters for many times what they pay the thief.

Other states (like Texas) are taking action:

1. Requiring sellers of catalytic converters to provide documentation showing ownership of the specific vehicle the part came from, indicating Title, Vehicle Make and Model, VIN (Vehicle Identification Number)

2. Requiring buyers of catalytic converters to mark each one and take a thumbprint from the seller, establishing a link between a converter and the person who claims a right to sell it, and

3. Making the possession and/or attempted sale of a catalytic converter that the person possessing it cannot prove belongs to him a felony.

But in Minnesota, GOP leaders claim that such a tough law would be too burdensome on scrap metal dealers.

It would mean scrap metal dealers couldn’t buy pickup trucks full of sawed-off catalytic converters and resell the rare metals they contain without themselves running afoul of the law.

Why does Texas give its citizens stronger protection against the theft of catalytic converters than the state of Minnesota?

Why can’t State Sen. John Marty, the sponsor of a bill to address the issue effectively, even get a committee hearing to discuss protecting ordinary Minnesotans from catalytic converter theft?

Why do Minnesota lawmakers not see this as the priority that we do?

Ordinary people are hurting — and getting ripped off every day — and our Minnesota law remains weak and toothless. Like each one of us, every Minnesota lawmaker knows the scourge and financial impact of this crime on every community. Last week, one St. Paul nonprofit had to cancel vital food deliveries to those in need due to losing catalytic converters on two vehicles.

Now is the time to put a stop to catalytic converter theft by giving police a law to enforce, one that’s tough on thieves — and on those who pay them.

Jane Prince is a member of the St. Paul City Council. Jean Wulterkens is a block club leader in the Highwood neighborhood of St. Paul.  

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