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Nebraska bill would raise tougher laws, tougher protection on catalytic converter thefts

Published: Feb. 28, 2022 at 10:43 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - The theft of catalytic converters has always been a problem.

But the high price for precious metals inside them has created an epidemic of those thefts.

One thief carries a portable metal saw while the other stands lookout to steal a catalytic converter even as a motion light gives them away.

“In that half-awake kind of state is that a saw? That’s a saw,” said Sharon Manhart.

Two thieves are close to stealing the catalytic converter from underneath the Manhart’s car when Ed jumps out of bed.

“Started yelling at them and they so casually walked back to their car. They just don’t seem scared whatsoever so the repercussions for them must not be bad enough,” said Sharon.

The Nebraska Legislature is considering LB994, a bill that would toughen catalytic converter scrapping.

Among the changes, payment must be by check sent in the mail to better track the seller who also needs to provide a fingerprint. Also required is the VIN number, vehicle make, model, and year the catalytic converter came from and violations are more serious, a misdemeanor of up to a year in jail.

“Additional regulation of the purchase of catalytic converters should be helpful. It’s really something the Omaha police officers were concerned with and wanted to see us do something to address,” said Senator Steve Lathrop.

Sharon may testify but for those who can’t the Nextdoor app has a click for comments.

“I just think if there’s more documentation by the businesses there’s going to be less people on the street going out and doing this for cash,” said Sharon.

The thieves driving the dark vehicle left the scene without the Manhart’s catalytic converter though cutting it close.

Ed was able to remove his catalytic converter and it’s under repair but he says he needs to do something in case those thieves come back again. After repairing the catalytic converter, he welded rebar around it.

“Good to be safe and not have to worry about it again,” said Ed.

The finished product could be called cat guard that comes with a message for catalytic converter thieves that says not today.

The legislative hearing is Wednesday for the proposed bill.

Tomorrow the Omaha City Council also has a hearing on an amendment by Councilman Vinny Palermo that would require anyone with a catalytic converter in their possession to have a permit. Those will cost $10 and are valid for one year.

One scrap dealer who didn’t want to be identified says all the changes make him do the work of law enforcement. He suggests restricting the hours that catalytic converters can be sold to recyclers and having an officer’s presence there.

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