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New bills aim at holding metal recycling companies accountable in catalytic converter thefts

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BATON ROUGE - Amid catalytic converter thefts, lawmakers feel that current regulations regarding scrap metals are not appropriate, and proposed a bill with stricter consequences for shady businesses.

“[Catalytic converter thefts are] a nationwide problem. I mean, it's really huge in every state. All states are frantically trying to get bills passed,” said Representative Jonathan Goudeau.

According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, catalytic converter thefts have skyrocketed since the onset of the pandemic.

Insurance claims data shows 3,400 thefts in 2019 and more than 14,000 in 2020, a 325% increase. They're still working to get the data from last year.

In February, WBRZ reported extensively on a massive theft ring throughout the parish. Baton Rouge police arrested Matthew Gibson and his wife Brooke after confiscating more than 100 catalytic converters at their home.

“I thought he was running a mechanic shop out of there because that's what it looked like in his garage, and there were always cars there,” neighbor Cindy Popadic said previously.

Current laws could penalize those caught with the stolen items.

New laws would hold more people accountable.

“The person stealing it, to the person transporting it out of state, which is where the biggest problem is coming from to someone that is buying it as well similar to the gun bills,” Goudeau said.

Lafayette representative Jonathan Goudeau is one of several lawmakers trying to crack down on all parties responsible, including scrap yards buying the precious metal inside converters.

His proposal would bring harsher punishment.

“One of the big differences in mine is it's going to have the mandatory jail time for each occurrence. It's going to have restitution involved in it as well too,” he explained.

Right now, Goudeau and several other state lawmakers are working to consolidate several bills into one hoping to streamline this process.

He doesn't expect any opposition.

“I really don't see any opposition to the bill. The automobile association is behind it one hundred percent. The sheriffs association is really on board with this, so you have a lot of associations. This is a huge problem nationwide."

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