Santa Monica Observer - Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

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By Alyssa Erdley
Observer Staff 

Santa Monica City Council Should Increase Penalties for Catalytic Converter Theft

Catalytic converters can sell for anywhere between $300 and $1,200 and cost vehicle owners thousands in repairs


March 31, 2023


Chart explaining catalytic converter theft.

March 24, 2023 - The City Council of Los Angeles is one vote away from passing a law to create penalties of 6 months in jail or $1,000 in fines for each catalytic converter theft. A person would be assumed to be in possession of the stolen auto part if they can not prove ownership. The proposal, authored by Councilmember John Lee passed 8-4 but must return to the council for a final reading on April 11 before it can be made into law. Current law requires the government to prove the converter was stolen - not an easy task - and can be charged as a misdemeanor, which under District Attorney George Gascon’s policies involves no jail time. According to the new law, each catalytic converter found in an individual’s possession would be a separate violation.

Catalytic converter thefts have risen eight-fold since 2018, according to Lee in an article in the Los Angeles Times. The stolen parts can fetch between $300 and $1,000, according to the law’s language, due to the precious metals involved in their structure. They are necessary for a vehicle’s exhaust emission control and can cost the car owner thousands of dollars to replace.

SMPD via Instagram

Tools confiscated from a band of Catalytic converter thieves in 2022

The theft of catalytic converters is very high in Santa Monica, as any cursory examination of Nextdoor posts can attest.Many residents must park on the street, making their vehicles vulnerable - and even more will be parking on the street if new zoning is instituted allowing residences to be built without parking.

Local activist Houman Hemmati is asking the Santa Monica City Council to institute a similar law to address what he calls a crisis. “I wanted to draw your attention to what the Los Angeles City Council (which hasn't been known as a pioneer in anti-crime policies!) has proposed to do to fight this problem that plagues our neighboring city as well.”

Local ordinances can backfill the gap left when the state government and county District Attorney decline to prosecute crimes, or even keep them defined as crimes.


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