The Saint Paul City Council plans to vote on January 19 to make possession of a catalytic converter without proof of ownership a misdemeanor. The council held a public hearing on the penalty on January 5, but laid the matter over to give it further time for review by the City Attorney’s Office.

Catalytic converter thefts have skyrocketed in the past year. Saint Paul saw more than 1,850 such thefts in 2021. In past years, only a few hundred such thefts were reported. The cost of replacing the devices can top $2,000.

The sale or purchase of the devices by unlicensed dealers has been a misdemeanor in Saint Paul since 2020. Under the proposed ordinance, no one can possess a detached catalytic converter without proof of ownership. The only exemption would be for licensed auto parts dealers.

“Our law enforcement officers have challenges when they pull over people who clearly have a removed catalytic converter, have a Sawz-all in their car, but then say, ‘Well, we got these from our friend.’ There has to be proof of ownership there,” said City Council president Amy Brendmoen at a December meeting.

Council president Amy Brendmoen cited the difficulty police have in charging catalytic converter thieves. At a December council meeting she said, “Our law enforcement officers have challenges when they pull over people who clearly have a removed catalytic converter, have a Sawz-all in their car, but then say, ‘Well, we got these from our friend.’ There has to be proof of ownership there.”

Last spring, police held an event at Allianz Field where they marked catalytic converters on vehicles with spray paint, contending that scrap metal dealers would not buy marked converters. However, that has not deterred thefts.

— Jane McClure

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