Catalytic converter theft bill heads to Gov. Inslee's desk

A bill taking aim at catalytic converter thefts in Washington now heads to Governor Jay Inslee's desk.

HB 1815 sped through the Legislature, and representatives on Tuesday made some small changes to the bill, before passing it along to the governor. The bill has strong bipartisan support, as catalytic converter thefts have been a persistent problem, one which lawmakers argue is only getting worse.

If signed into law, the bill would require scrap metal businesses buying catalytic converters to change how they document transactions; they must record the seller's name and document the catalytic converter as coming from a vehicle registered in their name. It would also require the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs to help local law enforcement agencies crack down on metal theft.

Several Seattle-area agencies have already formed a task force to address the rise in catalytic converter thefts.

RELATED: 9 agencies form task force to stop catalytic converter theft

A catalytic converter is a device on your car that converts toxic exhaust gasses from an internal combustion engine into less-toxic pollutants. Crooks steal them because they contain precious metals like rhodium, platinum or palladium. They can be sawed off of cars and sold to scrap metal businesses for quick cash, but bill sponsor Rep. Cindy Ryu says it's "around 10 percent of the total costs suffered by the owners they are stolen from."

Changes made to the bill Tuesday include:

  • More documentation required by scrap metal recyclers and vehicle wreckers
  • Three-day "cooling off" period for them to make payments over $30 to sellers
  • Creating a Consumer Protection Act violation
  • Adding $1,000 fines to each violation of existing metal theft laws
  • Adding an emergency clause and giving businesses several weeks to adapt

"This bill became stronger because colleagues engaged with the industry, the Governor’s Office and law enforcement agencies every step of the way. With the Governor’s signature, the new law can help reverse the spike in catalytic converter thefts, and the Washington State University work group will help inform further efforts the state can take to protect people from this crime," said Ryu.

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