PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A new proposal has been put forward to try and curb the spate of catalytic converter thefts in Providence that result in pricey repairs for car owners.
The ordinance introduced Thursday by Providence City Councilman David Salvatore, D-Ward 14, would require licensed vehicle repair shops, junkyards and secondhand dealers to require proof of ID and proof of ownership of a catalytic converter before purchasing it.
The business would then need to keep records of the sale and hold on to the converter for 10 days before using it, according to the legislation.
Salvatore said the idea is that it would eventually slow down the number of thefts if criminals have nowhere to sell the stolen parts.
“We’ve seen an uptick in catalytic converter thefts over the past several years,” Salvatore told 12 News. “There are low-to-moderate income residents who rely on their vehicles every day, and who have been on the hook for thousands of dollars of vehicle repairs as a result of these thefts.”
Data on catalytic converter thefts in Providence was not immediately available, but overall larcenies from motor vehicles — which would include the converter thefts — is up 44% so far this year compared with the same period in 2021, according to Providence Police crime statistics. Larcenies from a motor vehicle were also up 21% last year compared to 2020.
The thefts are happening all over: a spate of them hit the University of Rhode Island last month, and earlier this week an East Providence man was arrested for allegedly swiping catalytic converters from buses in Bridgewater, Massachusetts.
Catalytic converter thefts have also increased nationwide during the pandemic, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, as the value of the precious metals in the car parts increase.
Salvatore said the Providence Police would enforce the new ordinance and cite businesses that violate the rules.
Violating the ordinance could also land a business before the Providence Board of Licenses.
Stephen Alves, a lobbyist for the Auto Body Association of Rhode Island, said the repair shops are in favor of the ordinance, since they too have fallen victim to the thefts.
“They have people going into their lots and taking their catalytic converters,” Alves said.
Mayor Jorge Elorza’s office said they were still reviewing the “feasibility” of the proposal and would have more to say “once we understand the administration and enforcement process,” spokesperson Andrew Grande said.
The proposal was referred to the Committee on Ordinances for consideration.