Removed catalytic converters will have to be labeled with VIN under new Minnesota law
Anyone removing a catalytic converter attached to a vehicle will be required to label it with the vehicle identification number.
ST. PAUL — New rules aimed at fighting a recent surge in catalytic converter thefts are set to go into effect this summer under a bill signed into law by Gov. Tim Walz Thursday, March 16.
Starting on Aug. 1, anyone removing a catalytic converter attached to a vehicle will be required to label it with the vehicle identification number, or VIN. It would be a crime in Minnesota to possess a catalytic converter that does not have a vehicle number, though the law aims to make labeling as easy as possible: writing the number with a permanent marker would suffice.
Sellers will only be able to do business with licensed scrap dealers, and dealers would be required to keep track of converter sales and report them to a database similar to pawn shop databases used by some jurisdictions.
“Too many Minnesotans have stories about the danger and financial consequences of having their catalytic converter stolen," Walz said in a news release announcing that he had signed the bill. "This legislation will help protect Minnesotans’ property and bring peace of mind. Those who commit these brazen crimes should know that there will be accountability.”
Thefts of catalytic converters — auto parts containing precious metals — surged in the pandemic years, and Minnesota is among the worst-affected states, according to state law enforcement officials. Minnesota ranks third in the nation for catalytic converter thefts, behind California and Texas. Minnesota had just 40 reports of converter thefts in 2018, according to the Insurance Federation of Minnesota. In 2021, St. Paul and Minneapolis saw around 4,000 reports — more than the entire country just a few years before.
Catalytic converters are auto components designed to scrub pollutants from auto exhaust. They contain platinum, palladium and rhodium, and can sell for anywhere from $400 to $1,500. Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville, noted in a February committee hearing that rhodium was worth $26,000 an ounce last year — more than 12 times the value of gold.
Converters are easy to steal, too. They can be quickly removed from the bottom of a vehicle using power tools.
Beyond the converter labeling and tracking requirement, dealers will not be allowed to pay cash for converters and would have to hold on to them for five days before doing anything with them. The final version of the bill vote exempts "bona fide" businesses from a sales wait period.
The Department of Public Safety would also conduct audits of scrap dealers to ensure compliance with the tracking rules. The tracking program would cost $298,000 a year.
The Senate approved the bill on a 40-25 vote earlier this month. Bill sponsor Marty and others said the vast majority of unattached converters are stolen, and the labeling requirement would make it much easier to prove thefts.
Members of the House voted 113-15 in February to approve a version sponsored by Rep. Ruth Richardson, DFL-Mendota Heights, but because the Senate changed the bill to accommodate concerns from scrap sellers, the House had to approve it once again before it could go to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.
Walz on Thursday announced he had signed two other bills into law. One aims to strengthen child welfare protections for Native American families and children by affirming tribal authority to handle custody cases involving Native children. It also requires social workers to make efforts to preserve Native American family unity.
The other provides $250,000 in funding to make changes at the state board that decides whether people are mentally fit to stand trial for criminal charges.
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