SEATTLE — Catalytic converter thefts are rising in Washington state with a new report indicating a 10,000 percent jump in cases logged since 2019.
According to new data released from Been Verified, Washington is now the leading state with the highest number of catalytic converter thefts in the nation.
The report shows in the first four months of 2022, there were 1,533 thefts.
Experts say the automobile parts have been a hot commodity during the COVID-19 pandemic, because they contain valuable metals that have a high resale value.
Kerry Sherin, a consumer advocate with Been Verified, said the state's soaring number of thefts stem from the high amount of electric vehicles on its roads.
"The biggest issue for Washington is that they're so EV friendly," she said. Sherin adds hybrid vehicles are big targets “simply because the metals inside can be more valuable than a traditional car."
The King County Prosecutor's Office said they are aware of the number of thefts but there have been few arrests.
Too many thieves are making quick bucks from the crime, with little chance of being caught.
Casey McNerthney, spokesman for the prosecutors' office, said it is one of the most difficult crimes to pin down.
"It takes a lot for officers to find people in the act and to prove a catalytic converter is from a certain vehicle," he said. "But when we get these cases we're working with police to make sure the charges will stick."
Gov. Jay Inslee just signed House Bill 1815 into law in March, which requires scrap metal buyers to show identification and records when buying the auto part.
Although it's too soon to say, law enforcement officials say they are hopeful it will address the rise in thefts.
"If you get caught buying a stolen converter, and your fined $1,000 to $2,000, that would make people buying them say that's not worth the risk there," McNerthney. said
The penalties for people caught and convicted of the thefts can vary.
They can face burglary, theft, or malicious mischief charges, depending on how the case is referred to the prosecutor's office by police.
Auto owners can take steps to protect their vehicles, including: