RIVERSIDE (CNS) – The Board of Supervisors Tuesday directed the Riverside County Executive Office to initiate the creation of an ordinance intended to crack down on catalytic converter thieves by establishing local regulations and penalties where none exist at the state level.
Board Chairman Kevin Jeffries and Supervisor Yxstian Gutierrez brought forward the proposal, noting in documents posted to the board’s agenda that “catalytic converter theft has been one of the fastest growing crimes in the country.”
“Currently, law enforcement cannot seize a catalytic converter found to be removed from a vehicle and in someone’s possession unless a victim can be identified,” the supervisors wrote. “Catalytic converter theft is very costly to victims of this crime, both in dollars and in the time and inconvenience of repairs, and have affected individuals, businesses and government agencies.”
Supervisors said the intent of a local ordinance would be to “hold thieves accountable and discourage theft in unincorporated areas of Riverside County.”
The Inland Empire and other regions statewide have been plagued by converter thefts. The devices are used to filter engine emissions to cut down on the amount of pollutants discharged by cars and trucks. They’re located within a vehicle’s exhaust system and average about $1,200 apiece.
Their components include precious metals like palladium, platinum and rhodium, all of which command per-ounce prices ranging from $1,000 to $14,000. Thieves take the converters to scrap metal dealers and sell them.
Jeffries and Gutierrez directed the Executive Office to coordinate with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department and the District Attorney’s Office to draft a proposed ordinance, modeling it on a measure that the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors approved last year.
That ordinance provides actions local authorities can take to deter or stop converter thefts, recognizing that the state does not have any specific provisions that address the crimes.
“There (is) no state or federal legislation applicable within San Bernardino County requiring individuals to provide proof to law enforcement showing how they obtained detached catalytic converters, thus limiting law enforcement’s ability to protect the public by deterring catalytic converter thefts,” according to the county’s ordinance.
Jeffries and Gutierrez signaled their desire to see the county replicate what its neighbor to north has done, establishing proof of ownership requirements that include the license plate number of the vehicle from which a converter was taken; personal identifying information of the possessor; signature of the owner of the vehicle authorizing removal of the converter and that person’s contact information; a valid receipt for a replacement converter and proof of its installation.
Converter thefts in San Bernardino County are misdemeanors, punishable by fines of up to $1,000 and maximum jail terms of six months.
Jeffries expressed concern that there may be a state preemption issue if the county establishes its own anti-theft regulations, but he was informed by County Counsel Minh Tran that the matter would be thoroughly vetted before it’s submitted to the board.
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