Mankato MN 3/10/23

Keith Haskell – Independent corespondent Rocks and Cows MN

SENATOR KLOBUCHAR proposes federal law targeting catalytic converter theft but misses the mark. In an obscure, almost unannounced visit, Senator Amy Klobuchar made a brief stop in Mankato this afternoon at what was billed as a press conference to discuss her proposed parts act; targeting theft of catalytic converters. Rocks and Cows seemed to be one of a couple interested news attendees to the barely attended press conference to hear senator Klobuchar’s intention to make the listed auto parts thefts a federal crime.

(Amy Vogal-Public Safety Dir. w/Sen. Klobuchar)

Unfortunately, when it comes to crime and solutions surrounding it, Klobuchar continues to be off the mark. The Democratic senator helped introduce legislation, suggesting that auto manufacturers be required by law to imprint the vehicle identification number (VIN) on catalytic converters. Converters are stolen for the valuable metals inside and usually trafficked at scrapyards. The senator compared it to copper theft problems seen approximately 10 years ago across the nation, and to the legislation created to hold the scrapyards more accountable then. Unfortunately, this new legislation, assuming it passes, would likely have the same affect in that criminals seem to be able to adapt more readily than our government law enforcement. Additionally, with Minnesota Judges acting like fishermen in a catch and release scheme, criminals know that there are a few consequences in Minnesota when it comes to actual sentencing. This reporter inquired of Senator Klobuchar if this proposed federal action is necessary or priority in comparison to other issues facing the public here in the Mankato area, such as: catastrophic fentanyl crisis, Internet and sex crimes, and the unsolved 2010 murder of Matthew Albright, all seeming to be worthy of resources. The Senators handlers blocked a response and Amy Klobuchar continued comments stated that making catalytic converter theft a federal crime is a priority and will put more of a bite into the numbers and it will deter criminals from this type of crime. Throwing money at a new bill, or at a new law, rather than enforcing and adequately prosecuting and jailing criminals seems like a much more pressing and responsible move, but Amy stated the new theft law was her silver bullet. However, we must remember that this legislation, in fact, comes from a former Hennepin county prosecutor, turned politician. Local constituent worry that if we cannot change the behavior of Prosecutors and Judges that keep releasing repeat criminals, often times without bail or bond, that the situation in crime will continue no matter what the new laws are.

Mankato reports a whopping 50 catalytic converter thefts in the year 2022 and 11 so far in 2023 amounting to a loss of nearly $68,000 according to Mankato Director of Public Safety Amy Vogal, present at the press conference. Klobuchar reported that catalytic converter thefts cost of anywhere between $900-$3000 to replace but did not cite a source for those expenses. Vogal echoed that with 11 thefts so far in 2023 she expects this year’s total theft numbers to double the loss of 2022. The Public Safety Representative did not mention how many current catalytic converter thefts have been cleared by arrest or prosecuted in 2022 nor so far in 2023. Mankato business owner Wally Boyer of Jakes Stadium Pizza spoke as a victim on the issue at the conference. Boyer stated that he has lost more than one converter off more than one of his Toyota Prius delivery vehicles both in Mankato in Saint Peter. He’s stressed there was additional losses in waiting for repairs with down company delivery vehicles and having to pay staff members additional mileage to use their personal vehicles during the repair times. When I asked the Senator if she had been in contact with any of the US auto manufacturers, and if they were on board with a proposed legislation, she commented that they had in fact reached out to them but as of yet none of the US auto manufacturers were on board with the proposed changes. This would give rise to the possibility that the powerful lobbyists in line with US and foreign auto manufacturers would, in fact, put up quite a bit of resistance on Capitol Hill. When pressed about timeline requirements for manufacturers to inscribe the VIN number on a catalytic converter, she was unable to answer how long before this particular proposal would actually have an effect to deter crime.

(Wally Boyer speaking beside Sen. Klobuchar)

Our impression of the news conference, with acompanying sparse attendance, leads us to believe this was more a perfunctory voter glad handing visit to check a box, rather than a serious policy announcement. The Democratic senator often appeared awkward at today’s press conference, or even a little bit “off“ gazing or staring into no man’s land. Anyone from the northern tier of Rocks and Cows Country might wonder if that wasn’t guilt or remorse for not holding a press conference up on Minnesota’s Iron Range where she blocked legislation to open more mining rather than supporting regional incomes and economic growth. Amy dashed out the back door upon conclusion of statements and the presser was over.