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Oregon bill aims to stall rise of catalytic converter thefts

The bill would prohibit most people from selling catalytic converters for scrap.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Catalytic converter theft continues to rise in Portland and all over the country. On Tuesday, Oregon lawmakers will hear testimony on Senate Bill 803, which aims to stop thieves from stealing the car part and selling them for scrap.

“We are getting catalytic converters stolen every month -- it takes literally 30 seconds to steal one,” said Michael Alldritt, owner of Alpine Motors on Northeast 64th Avenue and Sandy Boulevard in Portland. "They're hurting small business left and right.”

Alldritt said replacing a stolen catalytic converter can cost around $1,000; an expense he absorbs out of pocket.

“If you were to claim all the catalytic converters that were stolen off the vehicles, the insurance rates would just be astronomical,” he said.

Catalytic converters are used to reduce emissions in automobiles. To accomplish that, they contain precious metals including rhodium, which is now worth a jaw-dropping $24,000 an ounce, 14-times the price of gold. Its value has skyrocketed since January, driving up theft as well. Crooks sell the stolen part to scrap metal buyers which right now is still legal in Oregon.

“What we're basically trying to do is take the market away,” said Oregon State Senator Chris Gorsek (D-Troutdale).

Gorsek is sponsoring SB 803, which was requested by Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt. It would prohibit scrap metal businesses from buying or receiving catalytic converters, except from commercial sellers. Those commercial sellers would be required to show identification and provide detailed records of the vehicle the catalytic converter came from.

“[Thieves] will quickly find that there's nothing in it for them to steal these converters because they can't get rid of them,” said Gorsek. “We hope that the bill will pass.”

So does Michael Alldritt.

“I'm glad to know that there's people out there doing something about this,” said Alldritt. “We've been hit so hard with COVID, the last thing we need is this extra added expense.”

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