PUYALLUP, Wash. — Emergency room nurse Merrily Fillmore didn’t see the damage to her truck at the end of her 12-hour shift at Puyallup’s MultiCare Good Samaritan Hospital, but she did hear it.
“I drove it home booming through the quiet streets of Puyallup at midnight,” Fillmore said.
Thieves cut out her truck's catalytic converter.
“We have a really intense, stressful job. Somedays are emotionally physically draining. So, to come out and realize someone has vandalized your car while you were trying to help people not die feels like a little bit of an insult,” Fillmore said.
The catalytic converter is a component found in most modern vehicles and is designed to lessen the environmental impact of exhaust. Though in recent years thieves have turned to scrapping the metal which in some cases can sell for hundreds of dollars.
According to the state’s office of the insurance commissioner, it’s a crime that spiked 3,800% between 2019 and 2020.
“This is going to take a partnership between the community, the police department, the Legislature. We’re all going to have to work together to tackle this issue,” said Capt. Ryan Portmann of the Puyallup Police Department.
Catalytic converters have been stolen from 18 vehicles parked at Good Samaritan Hospital in the last six months, according to data from the police department. That's just a fraction of the 244 converter thefts reported citywide over the same time period, according to Portmann.
In a statement, Good Samaritan Hospital said it’s adding lighting to parking lots and increasing security patrols and personnel in response to the rise in vehicle vandalism.
It's a problem lawmakers are currently working to address. Legislation working its way through Olympia would require scrap metal businesses to record documentation in order to buy a second-hand catalytic converter. House Bill 1815 passed in the House. It is now in the Senate where it waits for consideration from the Law & Justice Committee.