Other Views: Enact Tough Laws to Stop Catalytic Converter Theft


Catalytic converter theft is spiking around the state, a trend that shows no sign of abating.

Lawmakers should intervene decisively and back a plan that offers a meaningful response to protect Washingtonians from this costly and time-consuming public safety problem. Residents deserve better than a proposed bill to establish a task force to think about the problem for a year.

Catalytic converters contain highly valuable metals in a vehicle's emissions system that reduces harmful pollution going out the tailpipe.

In King County, 11 catalytic converters were reported stolen in 2019 for the entire year, officials have said. That jumped to 241 reported thefts for just the first half of 2021.

Senate Bill 5495, sponsored by state Sen. Jeff Wilson, R-Longview, would make it a crime to possess and also to try and sell a stolen catalytic converter. The bill would establish a Washington State Patrol training and grant program for augmenting enforcement and catalytic converter theft investigations, among other provisions.

Representatives from the Cowlitz County Sheriff's Office and King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office support Wilson's bill and testified in favor. Lobbyists for the scrap metal industry spoke against it.

Wilson said he is open to tweaking his legislation, and seeks input from the recycling industry. But his approach promises action, not good intention.

Sponsored by Rep. Cindy Ryu, D-Shoreline, House Bill 1815 calls for task force to study the issue. That would mean another year of costly thefts for individuals and insurance companies. Not good enough.

Washingtonians need more than a task force to put a dent in this crime. Lawmakers should show state government can recognize and attempt to alleviate a public safety concern shared by millions of residents.