Tennessee has seen a massive uptick in the theft of catalytic converters in the past year. Nationwide, this crime has increased by 300% from 2019 to 2020. In 2020 alone, over 14,000 converters were reported stolen or missing. Most professionals speculate that this is due to the massive increase in unemployment that has occurred during the pandemic. To curb this wave of crime, Tennessee has instated a brand-new law in July preventing the illegal sale of catalytic converters.
Why Catalytic Converters?
To the untrained eye, a catalytic converter may seem like a random piece of car machinery to target, but catalytic converters play an essential role in a vehicle’s ability to function. They control the emissions on a car or truck by converting hydrocarbons into water. This prevents pollutants and other toxic gasses from leaving through the vehicle’s exhaust. In order to perform its important job, the catalytic converter is made of several different precious metals like platinum, rhodium, and palladium, which are extremely profitable on the black market. One ounce of rhodium can sell for over $18,000 since the pandemic has cut most overseas production.
Why is rhodium so valuable, you might ask? This metal, often paired with its sister metal platinum, work to reduce nitrogen oxide from the exhaust gas, which is imperative to the health of our atmosphere. In addition, rhodium is used to make jewelry, searchlights, and mirrors. It also is used in the creation of oxidation-resistant metals that can withstand high temperatures. This makes it a very valuable metal in the creation of electrical wires and aircraft turbines.
The ability to sell metals like rhodium is very attractive to those struggling financially. In addition to the economic hardships that the pandemic has created, the decrease in people out and about has also made thieves feel more emboldened to steal these car parts. It only takes about 15 minutes to remove the part from the bottom of a vehicle, leaving you with about $2,000 in damages.
It’s clear that catalytic converter theft has created a bit of an epidemic of its own, so what is the state of Tennessee doing about it?
Tennessee’s New Catalytic Converter Law
Effective July 1st of 2021, the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance instated a new law that protects against the theft and illegal sale of catalytic converters. This was the first law ever passed concerning catalytic converter theft, due to the hard work of lobbyists, local Chiefs of Police, and industry workers themselves. The new law requires scrap yards to collect significant amounts of information concerning stand-alone converters when they are brought in to be sold. This new law requires that:
- Anyone engaged in the buying or selling of a detached converter must give a written notice to the police or sheriff concerning precisely where scrap metal will be sold
- Anyone that purchases scrap converters must be registered as a scrap metal dealer
- Scrap metal buyers must obtain copies of seller information, such as a valid ID
- Detached catalytic converters must be bought and sold at the location of the registered scrap metal dealer, in person
Lack of care for the requirements stated in this law will result in a Class A misdemeanor, and potentially a large fine. In addition, the seller of a stolen catalytic converter is liable to the victim for repairs and replacements.
Tennessee has made some great strides in an effort to protect citizens from having their catalytic converters stolen. In addition to these laws, there have also been multiple created to prevent other kinds of metal theft within the scrap metal industry.
Other Tennessee Scrap Metal Regulations of Note
Other forms of metal theft have become a growing problem in the last few years. It costs the US economy a stunning $1 billion per year, and thus, several other kinds of regulations have been put in place to prevent the theft of precious metals. Some of these regulations include:
- Taking the fingerprint of those selling metal materials
- Scrap metal yards must make a copy of the seller’s driver’s license, and take down their license plate numbers as well
- All scrap metal companies have to keep a record of transactions for 3 years
- Depending on the type of metal you wish to sell, most scrap metal companies will not give you cash. Instead, you will receive a check or money order
In addition to the precautions surrounding the acquisition of metals, the government also requires that all scrap metal dealers themselves be registered with the Department of Commerce and Insurance. They also require a fingerprint and a federally issued photo ID.
Click this link to find out more information about scrap metal laws and regulations.
What You Can Do to Avoid Theft
It’s clear that metal theft is a huge problem in the United States today. Though our state government has put a lot of effort into making the scrap metal industry safer, there is still work to be done. It may seem that catalytic converter theft is a difficult crisis to avoid, but there are preventative measures that you can take to ensure the safety of your vehicle. Such measures include:
- Mindful Parking: Park your car in a garage if at all possible. If this isn’t an option, choose brightly lit areas with security cameras nearby. If the lot or parking garage that you choose is heavily populated, this will deter possible thieves as well.
- Alarms: Some newer car models have vibration-triggered alarms that will send a thief running. If your car does not have one, ask about possible installation.
How We Scrap at Roane Metals
At Roane Metals, we pride ourselves in being one of Tennessee’s most reputable scrap dealers. We not only strive to be a reliable one-stop-shop for all of your metal recycling and scrap needs but also to create a cleaner, greener East Tennessee. Whether you’re looking to recycle your old aluminum cans, copper pipes, or broken-down automobiles, we want to make it as easy as possible to get rid of your old scrap while still abiding by state laws. There’s a good chance that if it’s metal, we’ll take it. If you’re interested in our services or have a question about scrapping laws in Tennessee, visit our website or give us a call at (865) 354-4282.