State Sen. Jeff Wilson, R-Longview, released a statement Monday calling for the state Legislature to take action on catalytic converter theft following the release of a report from the national statistical analysis firm BeenVerified.com.
According to the report, Washington has seen a 10,000% increase in catalytic converter thefts since 2019.
In his statement, Wilson highlighted the work he did during this year’s legislative session that resulted in a compromise bill, HB 1815. However, Wilson said there’s more work to be done on the issue.
“(HB 1815) was one of the most important bipartisan compromises of the 2022 legislative session. Unfortunately, it got us only halfway there,” Wilson said, “We didn’t increase prison time. We didn’t fund law enforcement. These were hung up in the Legislature’s bigger debate over policing and incarceration. But if we want to deal with this problem, we’re going to need to tackle crime head-on. The work will have to continue next year.”
According to Wilson’s statement, an increase in the prices of precious metals has caused a nationwide increase in crime rates.
This year’s compromise bill imposed “strict requirements on scrap yards and wreckers that purchase used catalytic converters, to prevent them from entering legitimate retail channels. Among them, purchasers must check and record seller IDs and proof of ownership, and cash payments on the spot are prohibited. Violations are a misdemeanor, with a fine of $1,000 per converter,” Wilson’s statement said.
Wilson said the shortcomings of the HB 1815 resulted from the Legislature’s decision to leave decisions around criminal penalties and other issues to a task force that will report back to the Legislature on Jan. 1, 2023.
The senator also expressed frustration regarding a lack of funding for a program the bill created.
“This year’s legislation was an important step, because it makes it harder to fence stolen converters. I’m not sure why the law enforcement money was left out, and I think it should be obvious to everyone that we ought to target the people who are directly responsible. In the Legislature’s current climate, getting a commitment to think about getting tough on crime in 2023 was a victory. But we will need to follow through. The statistics we just got from BeenVerified ought to shock all of us. A 10,000 percent increase? Holy cow. That’s too big to ignore,” Wilson said.
According to Wilson, he will monitor the task force’s work as he considers proposals for next year’s legislative session.