Seattle, WA – The number of catalytic converter thefts in Washington state have jumped 10,024 percent in the past two years.
A total of 42 catalytic converters were reported stolen in the Evergreen State in 2019, KOMO reported.
In 2021, that number surged to 4,252.
Catalytic converters have become a prized target for thieves due to the value of the precious metals they are comprised of, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.
Those metals – rhodium, palladium, and platinum – have risen sharply in price over the past 10 years.
As of last month, an ounce of rhodium was worth more than $15,000, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.
It was worth less than $1,000 just five years ago.
One ounce of palladium is currently going for about $2,000, while an ounce of platinum is valued at nearly $1,000, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
The surge in catalytic converter thefts is a problem throughout the country – not just in Washington state, KOMO reported.
The number of thefts jumped up 33.5 percent nationwide in just the first four months of 2022 alone.
“This isn’t just a nuisance crime. It’s an epidemic,” Washington State Senator Jeff Wilson (R-19th District) said in a press release, according to KING. “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.”
Casey McNerthney, the director of communications for public data company Been Verified, said it is very difficult to prosecute these types of thefts, KOMO reported.
“It takes a lot for officers to find people in the act and to prove a catalytic converter is from a certain vehicle, but when we get these cases, we’re working with police to make sure the charges will stick,” McNerthney said.
In March, Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed off on a new law requiring scrap metal buyers to show records and identification when buying catalytic converters, KOMO reported.
Criminals caught stealing converters could face charges of malicious mischief, theft, or burglary, depending on how police refer the case to the prosecutor’s office.
It is hoped the potential penalties will help deter thieves from targeting the high-value components.
“If you get caught buying a stolen converter, and you’re fined $1000 to $2000 dollars, that would make people buying them say that’s not worth the risk there,” McNerthney told KOMO.