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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

House probes theft of catalytic converters



Wandaliz Maldonado, an adviser with the Legal Affairs Office of the Department of Public Safety, said a main challenge in policing the theft of catalytic converters is that they do not come with a unique identification number from the manufacturer that allows law enforcement agents to identify them. (Tammy Olivencia)

By The Star Staff


The Public Safety, Science and Technology Committee in the House of Representatives, chaired by Rep. Luis “Narmito” Ortiz Lugo, held a public hearing Thursday on House Resolution 983, which seeks to investigate the theft of catalytic converters in Puerto Rico.


Wandaliz Maldonado, an adviser with the Legal Affairs Office of the Department of Public Safety (DSP), and María Lizardi, president of the Metal Recycling Centers Association of Puerto Rico, testified at the hearing.


Maldonado said one of the main problems is that catalytic converters do not come with a unique identification number from the manufacturer that allows law enforcement agents to identify them.


“There is not even a database in which the information is recorded or stored, which makes it more difficult to trace the path or origin of the aforementioned part,” she said.


Likewise, the DSP representative emphasized that the FBI made arrests, dismantling a criminal scheme based in Puerto Rico but that extended to several jurisdictions in the United States.


‘’We have observed a decrease in the illegal appropriation of catalytic converters in Puerto Rico with a decrease of 50% during 2023 compared to 2022,” Maldonado said.


According to data provided by the Puerto Rico Police Bureau (NPPR), in 2022, some 2,099 complaints were received regarding illegal appropriation of catalysts, with the areas of greatest incidence being in Bayamón, San Juan and Carolina. In 2023, 1,091 complaints were received and so far in 2024, the NPPR has received 154 complaints, reported in Bayamón, San Juan and Caguas as areas of highest incidence.


‘’The actions taken by the NPPR and federal authorities have had an effect,” Maldonado said. “The decrease in cases of theft of catalytic converters is evident.”


Lizardi said meanwhile that the purchase of catalytic converters under the parameters of the law is not illegal. There is an entire security framework of provenance and identification carried out by a legal metal collection center to ensure the legitimacy of the acquisition and subsequent sale.


‘’The problem of catalytic converter theft must be addressed by promoting legislation that facilitates the criminal prosecution of those involved in this activity and applying the penalties already established in the Puerto Rico Metals Law,” Lizardi said. ‘’We reiterate that the Law already establishes the necessary controls so that these parts, when obtained illegally, do not reach the recycling centers, so targeting our centers to solve the problem will not be effective. Imposing new operational requirements on centers that operate within the framework of the law, as House Bill 1606 intends, will only serve to negatively impact the industry and will leave unpunished those who operate in disregard of law and order.”


Likewise, Lizardi said, the NPPR is substantially prevented from immediately intervening or investigating businesses that operate illegally, since to do so they need to have court orders.


“The assignment of investigative, economic and forensic resources to the Puerto Rico Police is necessary to prevent thefts,” she said.

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1 Comment


lauryfriese932
May 06

A unique identification number from the manufacturer that allows law enforcement agents to identify them. Candy Crush

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