Scrap metal shops already seeing drop in catalytic converter sales due to new law

SPOKANE, Wash. – A new law meant to crack down the sales of stolen catalytic converters is already affecting the community and businesses that buy them.

Starting July 1, it is illegal for scrap metal businesses to pay cash for catalytic converters. Businesses must also have a paper trail, meaning they will pay in checks. People who will get paid for their converters will also need to wait three days before getting that money, just in case it ends up being stolen.

“These crimes are motivated by monetary benefit, right? People are trying to steal these things to turn them into scrap metal establishments and get money,” said Cpl. Nick Briggs, with Spokane Police. “These things are implemented and hopefully we curb that. We’ve actually seen some success already.”

Part of HB 1815 went into effect on May 1, and right before that, Glen Ahlborn, the manager of Action Recycling saw a surge in catalytic converters come in. He’d buy 20 to 30 converters each day from people.

That number has since dropped.

“As soon as the law took effect, that whole month, we only bought 18 catalytic converters from the general public,” he said.

Before the law went into place, Ahlborn would buy catalytic converters, sometimes even suspecting they were stolen. He would then call the police to report it.

“If we know if something is stolen and turn it away, it’s going to go somewhere else. Somebody may or may not care about whether it’s stolen or not. They may or may not work with the police department,” he said. “We would rather lose a few dollars here and there and work with the police to ensure somebody gets their property back or at least somebody arrested for stealing property.”

People selling catalytic converters will also need to show ID and prove that the car they own matches the device they’re trying to sell. At Action Recycling, Ahlborn asks for either a title or registration and it must be in the seller’s name. He writes down the person’s vehicle identification number and keeps a database, too.

“I’ve seen them use a title for proof of ownership but they had a Ford catalytic converter for a Chevy title and we turn them away,” Ahlborn said. “A lot of people have paperwork. They try to do a bill of sale, of course, anybody could write a bill of sale, and it’s not proof they actually are the legal owner. We’ve had people bring in titles, but they’re in somebody else’s name and we just started turning them away.”

The new law that took effect July 1 also requires wrecking yards to follow the same process. Dustin Koerper, the owner of Whiteys Wrecking, says it doesn’t affect them as much as scrap metal businesses. Though he is happy this has become law to combat the rise in catalytic converter thefts.

While businesses like Ahlborn’s are affected because he doesn’t buy as many catalytic converters, he’s glad this law is in place to deter criminals. He says buying converters are only a small part of his business.

“Yeah, we’re losing some [money], but it’s nice to know we’re helping the community make a dent in the catalytic converter theft problem,” Ahlborn said.

To keep your car safe from getting its catalytic converter stolen, Spokane Police say people should park in well-lit, populated areas. Report the crimes after you find out they happen.

“We need to know where they’re happening and how often they’re happening. So, if you’re a victim of one of these incidents, please report it.”

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