The theft for catalytic converters has increased nearly 2,000 percent in Oklahoma since 2019. The Sooner State is among 36 others which passed legislation in order to curb the problem.
The catalytic converter is an important piece of a vehicle’s exhaust system. It’s also fairly easy to access.
Police said a crew with a car jack and an electric saw can lift, cut and leave the scene in 60 seconds.
In May, Governor Kevin Stitt signed a bill into law that makes stealing a catalytic converter a level-three burglary charge. The punishment could be up to $5,000 in fines or five years in prison.
State Rep. Ross Ford (R-Broken Arrow) helped create the legislation. While he’s hopeful it will reduce the number of crimes, he’s not done fighting the problem.
“I know there’s more that can be done,” Ford, who has 27 years of law enforcement experience with the Tulsa Police Department, said. “I wanted to go after the person who was actually committing the crime.”
His hope during the 2022 legislative session was to do more, but he said there was pushback. The goal became a balancing act between stopping criminals while not penalizing those who sell legally.
“There is a market for buying catalytic converters, and that is another problem we've had with the law,” Ford said.
The legislation, House Bill 4373, instead focused on increasing penalties for thieves.
Current state statute also requires sellers to provide identification and proof of vehicle ownership, but Ford said there is a potential problem with enforcement.
The regulatory agency overseeing scrap dealers and salvage yards in Oklahoma is the Department of Agriculture.
“It makes it really difficult, if you have an agency that doesn’t have any investigative powers or the ability to arrest people,” Ford said. “They have very few people that can do that in the Department of Agriculture.”
In addition to enforcement, state Rep. Ford also proposes a picture database of sellers with their part.
Ford believes the implementation of that system would make it easier for law enforcement to identify criminal patterns.
He expects new ideas to make it into legislation next session.