HB 1815 passes to prevent catalytic converter threat

Washington has the third highest catalytic converter theft in the country, according to Been Verified, a national statistic-analysis firm. A new law, HB 1815, which passed unanimously in the house and senate, aims to prevent catalytic converter theft in Washington.

Catalytic converters contain precious metals like palladium and rhodium, which means thieves can sell stolen converters for hundreds of dollars. The new law requires ID and a traceable method of payment for catalytic converter sales so that sales of catalytic converters will be legitimate, as well as creating a work group to address ongoing issues.

However, the law does not increase jail time for the theft or provide specific funding to enforce the issue, which some have criticized. 12th District Representative Mike Steele said that while this law goes far enough, Washington needs to make sure it is supporting its law enforcement.
“On this particular instance, specifically to catalytic converter theft, I was happy with the final outcome. But I think there is, as I mentioned, a suite of laws we need to address. We need to allow police officers to do their job in an appropriate and reasonable fashion,” Steele said.

Allowing the police to do their job goes beyond simple enforcement, Steele said.

 “That requires some commitment on the legislature side of things meaning, we can make sure that these officers have the educational resources, the de-escalation practices, and opportunities to learn de-escalation practices appropriately”, he said. “That’s where we should be putting our efforts, not making it easier to get away with crimes. And that’s what I really want to focus on.”

 Other resources the police need include funding for body cameras for small departments and other infrastructure funding that they need, he said, as well as the right courses and opportunities to practice policing tactics, Steele said. Small departments don’t have all the resources they need, and the state or other entities need to support those departments financially so they can get the resources they need, he said.

 In certain cases, those outside of law enforcement, like social workers and mental health specialists, are needed to respond to local issues, and police presence can allow those workers to do their job safely, he said.  We need to continue to work on police reform and the state has gotten lax over the last three years regarding what they allow officers to do, he said.

12th District Representative Keith Goehner said that he initially had concerns with how the law was drafted but he eventually supported the bill. Goehner said that the stolen converters are sold on the black market. The bill was bipartisan and had extensive input and change, he said.
“I do not know anyone who has had their catalytic converter stolen but it has been a major problem in urban Western Washington,” Goehner said.

State Senator Brad Hawkins said that he was proud to support the bill and that catalytic converter theft has increased 10-fold in some areas of the state and is a growing problem nationwide.

“This new state law takes a big step forward to crack down on catalytic converter theft and creates a work group to address ongoing and future issues. Unfortunately, many crimes are on the rise in Washington state, and we need to be more vigilant about addressing crime by supporting law enforcement,” he said.

 The support for the bill was bipartisan, which is more common than you would think in Olympia, Hawkins said. Steele echoed this sentiment.
“I would tell you that when a bill makes it to the House or the Senate, overwhelmingly, 93% of bills that we passed are usually passed in a very bipartisan or even unanimous fashion,” he said.


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