ISRI Testifies at NJ Senate Commerce Committee Hearing on Catalytic Converter Theft Senate Bill 3608

This week’s Industry Voices is a written statement from ISRI’s Chief Policy Officer, Danielle F. Waterfield, Esq., supporting Senate Bill 3608, as amended, on behalf of ISRI’s New Jersey Chapter representing its member companies in the state of New Jersey.

The market for stolen catalytic converters is fueled by illegal buyers claiming they are not subject to state metals theft laws because they purchase “cores” or parts, and not scrap metal. However, catalytic converters are very rarely sold for reuse as parts, and are not “core” parts like a transmission or engine. Catalytic converters are detached from scrap vehicles for the recycling of the valuable nonferrous metals within those devices. Any purchaser of a catalytic converter is a scrap metal dealer and should not be allowed to evade metals theft laws by saying otherwise.

Unfortunately, this is not a new crime, but the Internet now makes it even easier for thieves to quickly and easily offload the stolen devices. Once a catalytic converter is removed from the vehicle, it looks like any other catalytic converter and can easily be traded, for example, to a mobile vendor advertising online that it purchases any catalytic converter for cash, and the black market flourishes with no records to be found.

ISRI members in New Jersey fully support the goals outlined in S3608 and are seeking a path to support these goals without harming New Jersey recyclers operating responsibly under existing state scrap metal theft statutes. ISRI is pleased to be able to offer its full support of this legislation as amended with a committee substitute we offered for review to Senator Cunningham and her staff prior to the hearing on June 16.

Catalytic converter theft prevention needs a multi-stakeholder approach that involves property owners, recyclers, law enforcement, and the general public. Responsible scrap metal dealers are part of the solution, and serve as partners with law enforcement in New Jersey by providing invaluable records on scrap sales. Enforcement of the law is essential, which can be aided by property owners who take recommended steps to protect their vehicles. The general public can be on watch for not only the thieves, but unscrupulous mobile purchasing activities that occur in vacant parking lots and other venues. ISRI commends the sponsor of S3608 for seeking policy that will provide law enforcement the tools it needs to better partner with scrap metal businesses and the public to combat this crime. Some of the tools in the proposed committee substitute that ISRI has offered to the sponsor and believes will help curb the illicit trade in stolen catalytic converters include:

  • Ensuring only those regulated under the state metals theft statutes are permitted to purchase catalytic converters in order to prevent core recyclers from evading existing theft laws.
  • Specifically adding catalytic converters to the definition of “scrap metal” to make it perfectly clear that purchase of these devices is subject to New Jersey scrap metal theft laws.
  • Strengthening the proposed documentation requirements by requiring scrap metal businesses to add a copy of the Vehicle Identification Number as applicable to the scrap metal transaction sales record of the vehicle from which the catalytic converter was removed.
  • Subjecting illegal purchases of catalytic converters to criminal penalties under the scrap metal theft laws as well as potential general criminal theft statutes.

Responsible recyclers are partners with law enforcement as part of the solution. ISRI is eager to provide industry experience and expertise to further the goals of S3608 and ensure law enforcement has the tools it needs to crack down on thieves and unscrupulous buyers of stolen catalytic converters. If you have any questions or comments, contact Michael Miller or Danielle Waterfield.