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Catalytic converter theft deterrent bill passes Washington state Legislature

Lawmakers hope tougher restrictions will deter a steep rise in catalytic converter thefts in Washington state.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Editor's note: The above video about a catalytic converter task force was published March 1.

A bill to help crack down on rising catalytic converter thefts cleared the Washington state Legislature Tuesday night, and now heads to Gov. Jay Inslee's desk for final approval.

HB 1815 passed the Senate 48-0 on Friday. It cleared the House on Tuesday with a 97-0 vote.

Catalytic converters contain precious metals like palladium and rhodium, making them valuable to scrap metal businesses. The devices can be sold for hundreds of dollars.

The bill places new requirements on scrap yards and auto wreckers that purchase used catalytic converters for recycling, launches a new grant program for local law enforcement sting operations, and creates a task force to recommend further changes to state law.

“This isn’t just a nuisance crime,” state Senate Rep. Jeff Wilson said in a press release. “It’s an epidemic. Thousands of Washington residents have been victimized, and the cost to repair a vehicle after tailpipes and sensors have been sawn through can be immense. We need to cover all the angles, and felony penalties for catalytic converter thieves should be one of them.

“I’m sure this is something the task force will consider, and that the Legislature will be dealing with this issue next year. In the meantime, the most important thing is to take action now, before more catalytic converters are stolen. What we’re doing this year is breaking the chain and eliminating the incentive for catalytic converter theft, by making it extremely difficult to sell a stolen catalytic converter to a legitimate business in the state of Washington. It’s a great place to start.”

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