Catalytic converter thieves cause nearly $50,000 in damage to one Las Vegas car dealership

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Published: Mar. 24, 2023 at 7:18 PM PDT
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LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) - As one Nevada lawmaker continues her battle to fight catalytic converter thieves, stories of heavy losses from theft continue to emerge.

“Average repair in these is 5,000 to $6,000; somewhere in upwards of $10,000,” Said Andy MacKay.

MacKay spoke during a Thursday legislative hearing for a proposed bill to fight converter theft statewide. MacKay is the Executive Director of the Nevada Franchised Auto Dealers Association. He says his figure is based on conversations he’s had with auto dealers.

“One dealership in Las Vegas alone last year did $40,000 in repairs of stolen catalytic converters from customers that patronized that business. The dealership itself suffered $27,000 in catalytic converter losses. That is separate and apart from $20,000 in property damage that the dealership suffered because the thieves cut down the fencing, broke the gates, etcetera,” MacKay told lawmakers.

Speakers say the proposed bill by Senator Rochelle Nguyen is the best attempt they’ve seen at trying to deal with the crime in Nevada. The Senator’s bill, SB 243, is aimed at making it a felony, with severe prison time for possession of catalytic converters. Senator Nguyen told lawmakers during the hearing about her conversations with law enforcement. She referred to a photo of a person on Nextdoor walking down the street with a shopping cart full of catalytic converters. She says she asked a law enforcement officer what authorities could do to that person.

“And I was told the best that we could probably do since we have no way of knowing which cars those catalytic converters came from, and without any kind of other supporting document, probably possession of the stolen property for the shopping cart,” said Senator Nguyen.

Thieves are stealing catalytic converters for precious metals inside that clean a car’s exhaust. Thieves want those metals because some are worth more than gold. Senator Nguyen said one converter can fetch $500 to $750 per converter on the black market. Thieves can take a converter in under a couple of minutes, or less.

The Senator’s bill also tightens up who can purchase converters.

“I am unaware of any reputable scrap metal organization that will buy a catalytic converter. It is a zero tolerance from our company. If you accept a catalytic converter in our company, you will be fired,” said Warren Hardy who was representing SA Recycling and other businesses.

Some lawmakers were concerned about people having to show proof of their authorization to possess a converter. But there was wide support for the bill, including from some gaming operators. Thefts have taken place in some casino parking lots.