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Catalytic converter theft deterrent bill passes House

HB 1815 requires scrap metal buyers to have more documentation when buying catalytic converters and establishes a task force to address the rise in thefts.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — A bill requiring scrap metal businesses to have more documentation when buying catalytic converters and establishing a state task force to address the rise in thefts passed the House of Representatives Saturday evening. 

Catalytic converters thefts have risen sharply across Washington state. The device contains precious metals like palladium and rhodium, which make it easy for thieves to sell stolen converters for hundreds of dollars.

"However, the amount that thieves receive for a stolen catalytic converter is typically around 10 percent of the total costs suffered by the owners of the vehicles they are stolen from,” said Rep. Cindy Ryu (D-Shoreline), the lead sponsor for HB 1815

If passed into law, scrap metal businesses buying catalytic converters would have to have documentation indicating the converter came from a vehicle registered in the seller's name. 

The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs would also be required to establish a program to assist local law enforcement agencies with special enforcement around metal theft, which is an important step to crack down on thefts and illegal sales, according to Rep. Jesse Johnson (D-Federal Way), who co-sponsored the bill.

“We need to make sure law enforcement has the resources and training to deter catalytic converter theft and respond adequately when it happens. This legislation lays the groundwork to reverse the massive spike in theft that communities around our state are experiencing,” Johnson said.

The bill passed the House with 68 yay votes and 30 nay votes. It has yet to be introduced in the Senate. 

Another bill, SB 5495, introduced in the Senate would prohibit the resale of catalytic converters to scrap dealers except from commercial enterprises and vehicle owners. The bill would also require scrap dealers to pay for converters via a mailed check as opposed to an on-the-spot cash payment. 

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