🚗 Thieves can cross state lines, so there's a push to address the problem nationally

🚗 Catalytic converters are big moneymakers for thieves, and they're easy to grab

🚗 NJ recently enacted a law to address the growing problem

An unremarkable part of your vehicle is so desired by thieves, the problem may soon become the sole focus of a task force at the federal level.

One month after New Jersey enacted its own law to target the theft of catalytic converters, U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J. on Tuesday announced the introduction of the Catalytic Converter Theft Task Force Act.

Under the legislation, the interagency task force would be directed to assess existing laws, regulations, and law enforcement practices related to the issue, and make recommendations to Congress and other officials on possible ways to deter and solve the theft and trafficking of catalytic converters, which are big moneymakers for thieves because they're made of precious metals.

"We need law enforcement agencies, advocates and insurers, car dealers and manufacturers to all be on the same page," Menendez said during a news conference in Wood-Ridge. "It shouldn't take thousands of innocent victims so far — and potentially thousands more in the future — to stop this epidemic in its tracks."

Catalytic converter theft running rampant in NJ

Catalytic converter
Catalytic converter (AP Photo by Robert F. Bukaty)

According to Wood-Ridge Police Chief Michael O'Donnell, Bergen County recorded close to 950 catalytic converter thefts in 2022. There have been nearly 400 so far in 2023.

Dozens of converters were stolen over the course of just 10 days earlier this month in South Brunswick. More recently, 18 were taken from Amazon trucks in Hackettstown, according to police.

U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez displays a catalytic converter during a press conference in Wood-Ridge (YouTube screenshot)
U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez displays a catalytic converter during a press conference in Wood-Ridge (YouTube screenshot)

Federal action is needed, Menendez said, because many thieves operate across state lines.

"We see them come here to Bergen County, and then drive across the George Washington Bridge or through the tunnel to sell catalytic converters in New York and other states," Menendez said.

In May, Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill into law that's designed to make it harder for thieves to unload catalytic converters at scrap yards. Among the changes, businesses must now obtain several pieces of identifying information when purchasing a used catalytic converter.

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