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State bill aims to discourage catalytic converter thefts as auto shops see increase in stolen parts

The Public Safety and Security Committee unanimously passed a bill last week that would make the point of sale for catalytic converters more challenging.

VERNON, Conn. — Catalytic converter thefts continue to be an issue in Connecticut.

A man in Wallingford was met with gunfire on Sunday after approaching three men trying to steal the piece from a car. No one was injured.

A 22-year-old New Britain man turned himself into Manchester police Monday after a warrant for his arrest was issued for his alleged role in stealing more than $50,000 worth of parts from Lynch Toyota.

RELATED: Shots fired during catalytic converter theft in Wallingford

The Public Safety and Security Committee is hoping to prevent instances like these from happening. They unanimously approved a bill last week that would make it more difficult to sell and receive the piece.

A catalytic converter is used to convert emissions from the vehicle. Paul Gaulin with Automotive Auto Parts on Talcottville Road in Vernon said there are three metals, platinum, palladium, and rhodium, of value.

“There’s very small amounts in here but apparently it’s high in value right now,” the commercial manager said. “They have a guard that they’re putting in but they’re cutting right through them.”

He said he is seeing more people calling daily looking for a replacement part after theirs was stolen. He said they can be worth anywhere from a couple of hundred dollars to thousands. The criminals are sawing them from under vehicles, which Gaulin said can be easily done.

The bill, which now heads to the Senate, would do a number of things. Recyclers would not be able to purchase the piece unless it is attached to a car. If they detach it themselves, they need to mark the VIN number on the piece. They must also keep a record of vehicles and parts received, dismantled, or sold for two years including the make, year, and information on who they received it from. Twice a month, they must send to the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles a list of vehicles received.

They can face financial penalties for each offense.

Scrap metal businesses and junkyards can purchase individual pieces. They have to keep a record of the place and date of the transaction and include information like a description of the piece, item type, and identification number for two years. There also needs to be a record of the seller including their name and address as well as the plate number used to transport the piece. It must also include a statement from the seller saying they own it. A photo or video of the seller and piece must be kept.

They would also have to submit weekly reports to the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection on recent transactions.

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‘We’ve had a major problem everybody knows catalytic converters are being stolen all over the state,” Senator Dan Champagne said. “They’re making a lot of money off of catalytic converters and we need to slow it down.”

The senator, representing the 35th district, is a ranking member of the committee. He said, when people’s lives are at risk, they need to ramp up efforts to curb the violence.

Democratic Representative Maria Horn is a co-chair of the committee. She said this is an attempt to shut down the catalytic converter market.

“It struck us that we could do something to shut down the market for them and not just focus on penalties for crime,” she said.

RELATED: Arrest made in Wallingford for a Mariachi teacher alleged to have sexually assaulted a minor

The two-state leaders say there is always a concerning criminal who could take the parts over state lines. Representative Horn said no criminal activity can be stopped by law, but this can help slow it down and stop it. The senator said he hopes the other states will follow in their footsteps and noted delivering stolen property over state lines is a federal crime.

Tony Black is a multi-media journalist at FOX61 News. He can be reached at tblack@fox61.com. Follow him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram

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