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The Impact – Bipartisan Push to Combat Catalytic Converter Theft; Spotlight on Invasive Species   

Mike McClanahan profile by Mike McClanahan

Lawmakers are looking for new tools to crack down on a catalytic converter theft crime wave.

That specific type of theft has skyrocketed in the last couple of years in many parts of Washington.

All it takes is a cordless reciprocating saw.  A video shared by the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department shows how quickly it can happen, with a pair of thieves pulling up near a driveway, crawling under a vehicle, and leaving with a stolen catalytic converter in about thirty seconds. The owners of targeted vehicles may not realize what’s happened until they crank up the ignition and hear the startling rumble of a car missing part of its exhaust system. Inside these car parts there’s a honeycomb coated with precious metals like platinum, palladium, and rhodium which scrub some of the pollution out of vehicle exhaust. A sawed off converter represents a quick buck for thieves and an expensive repair for the owner of the vehicle. In some cases the vehicles are totaled.

Bills to address catalytic converter theft were proposed by democratic and republican lawmakers this year. Rep. Cindy Ryu’s proposal was recently amended to include some of the elements of Sen. Jeff Wilson’s proposal. On “The Impact” the two legislators discuss new restrictions on the sale of catalytic converters. They also explain the impact of the crime on the communities they represent.

Rep. Cindy Ryu, (D-Shoreline) says thieves targeted a van that her church used to pick up elderly members for services about a year ago.

 “It essentially disables your vehicle,” said Ryu. “. . . because it’s not just the catalytic converter that’s being cut out, there’s brake line and other damages occurring.”

“It’s a huge detriment to any family’s economic well-being,” she continued.

Sen. Jeff Wilson (R-Longview) says catalytic converter theft is a huge problem in his district.

“I have heard from hundreds of constituents,” said Wilson. “We know that this crime can be committed physically in the field in a matter of seconds.”

“We need to identify a process and procedure that is uniform and standard that will slow that down. In other words delay of payment on the spot,” he added.

 Governor Jay Inslee proclaimed Feb. 28th-March 4th to be Washington Invasive Species Awareness Week.  Washington Invasive Species Council Executive Coordinator Justin Bush joins host Mike McClanahan to spotlight some of the current species in focus. That includes an invasive crab that is already here and multiplying rapidly and an insect spotted in Oregon that could pose a multi-billion dollar threat to Washington crops and timber.    

The invasive European Green Grab has recently experienced a population explosion in some of the state’s most critical marine habitats. The aggressive crabs can decimate clam and oyster populations. Their presence is also a threat to eelgrass and native Dungeness crabs.

“We probably won’t be able to eliminate every European Green Crab from our state, but if we adequately suppress the populations past a certain point, then they won’t continue to spread and seed new locations across Puget Sound,” said Bush.

State entomologists are very worried about what the spotted lanternfly could do to Washington’s grapes, orchards, and timber. The Tree of Heaven, which is associated with the lanternfly, is known to be present in a number of counties across the state.

“In October of 2021, we had a Tree of Heaven census wherein we invited the public to help map every Tree of Heaven in their community and report to the Invasive Species Council. And we now know that Tree of Heaven is present in 26 of Washington’s 39 counties,” said Bush. “The spotted lanternfly has been found both dead as well as alive in the states of California and in Oregon, so we know that the spotted lanternfly is hitchhiking across the United States, and we know that it’s headed toward the West Coast. So we’re really stepping up our game in Washington in order to better understand the Tree of Heaven, to start removing the Tree of Heaven and record and preparing for the spotted lanternfly invasion.”

Watch the full interview here:

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