Denver, CO

Council committee OKs plan to thwart car part thefts amid growing concern

David Heitz
Evgeny Tchebotarev/Unplash

By David Heitz / NewsBreak Denver

(Denver, Colo.) A Denver City Council committee agreed Monday to create a registry for pawn shops that sell catalytic converters — a bill that now heads to the full Council for approval.

Catalytic converter theft has skyrocketed in Denver and across the state. “This is literally occurring in every neighborhood in Denver,” said Matthew Lunn, director of strategic initiatives for the Denver Police Department.

The proposed law is similar to a recently enacted state law that requested people selling catalytic converters to pawn shops have to show identification.

Councilmember Paul Kashmann suggested there should be a more formal registry system. Lunn said state law only requires the pawn shops to take pictures of the identification.

Kashmann also said there should be a required waiting period of 72 hours for people selling catalytic converters to pawn shops.

By tracking the sale of the devices, police can spot trends such as people repeatedly bringing converters for sale, Lunn agreed.

Catalytic converters have proven popular with thieves because they contain precious metals. The converters easily can fetch money at scrapyards. A new converter can cost upwards of several hundred dollars.

Flynn: Outlaw converter sale entirely

The bill also would require the seller of the converter to register the serial number of the vehicle it came from, Lunn said.

Councilmember Kevin Flynn said he believes the second-hand sales of catalytic converters should be outlawed entirely. “How often does an owner recycle their own catalytic converter?” he asked.

But a police department representative at the meeting said some people buy catalytic converters for legal re-use from so called “chop-shop” yards.

“Professional” catalytic converter thieves can swipe the part off a vehicle in about 30 seconds, Lunn said. Most often, the converters come from cars parked in large lots, such as the airport and RTD Park and Ride locations, he added.

Committee chair’s wife victim of converter theft

Councilmember Robin Kniech chairs the Safety, Education, Housing and Homelessness Committee where members discussed the proposed law. “This happened to my wife at an RTD Park and Ride,” Kniech said. “It is disruptive, it is expensive, and frankly you have a long wait to get a replacement part.”

Lunn said sometimes insurance companies won’t pay when a person is the victim of catalytic converter more than once, which commonly occurs.

The new regulations still must be approved by the full City Council to become law.

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I've been in the news business 35 years, spending much of my career in editing roles at local newspapers in Los Angeles, Detroit, and the Quad-Cities of Illinois and Iowa. Upon moving to Denver in 2018, I began experiencing severe mental illness due to several traumatic experiences. I became homeless on the street for about a year before spending time in the state mental hospital. I am living proof that people can rebound from mental illness with proper treatment, even after experiencing homelessness. I consider myself a lucky guy to live in a great place like Denver. I hope my writing reflects the passion I have for living here.

Denver, CO

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