Amended Washington State Bill Looks to Deter Catalytic Converter Thefts

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Feb 28, 2022—According to a story by the Tacoma News Tribune, Washington state lawmakers are working on a tougher approach to curbing huge rises in catalytic converter thefts seen across the state since the end of 2020 by imposing heavier punishment on those trying to sell or buy a stolen one.

If passed into law, House Bill 1815 would make it a felony to try to unlawfully buy or sell a catalytic converter that has been removed from a vehicle. Criminals would face jail time and a $5,000 fine for each catalytic converter. Unlawful possession of a catalytic converter would also be a crime, a gross misdemeanor punishable by jail time and a $2,000 fine per item.

The bill would also require the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs to develop a statewide law enforcement strategy targeting metal theft. The strategy would include creating relationships between local law enforcement and scrap metal recyclers, with a focus on deterring unlawful purchases and identifying individuals involved in theft. A grant and training program would also be created through that same association of law enforcement leaders to help fund police sting operations to catch unlawful sellers in the act.

The grant and training program has yet to be funded, but the chair of the House Transportation Committee, Rep. Jake Fey, D-Tacoma, said in a news release earlier this month he would make sure the transportation budget includes that money. The legislation comes after a year when residents of Tacoma and Pierce County saw a huge increase in catalytic converter theft. In 2021, the Tacoma Police Department recorded 1,077 catalytic converter thefts, compared to 191 in 2020. 

Other provisions of the bill include that scrap yards that purchase catalytic converters would be required to verify ownership, keep records of every purchase and obtain copies of sellers’ driver’s licenses or government-issued photo ID. Cash payments for non-ferrous metal purchases would be limited to $30, with the remainder paid by check. The bill would impose a 3-day waiting period before payment can be made for a used catalytic converter. Persons who have attempted to sell a stolen catalytic converter would be added to the state’s “no-buy” database. Violations of purchasing rules would become a cause of action under the state Consumer Protection Act, punishable by a fine of $1,000 per catalytic converter. Licensed auto wreckers would be exempted from possible felony penalties.


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