With skyrocketing catalytic converter thefts across the country and in King County, nine Eastside law enforcement agencies, including eight police departments and the King County Sheriff’s Office, are banding together to combat catalytic converter theft. The task force members will share case information, intelligence and resources to help address the costly and growing crime problem.
“We have seen exponential growth in catalytic converter thefts across the region and it needs to stop,” said Bellevue Police Chief Wendell Shirley at a news conference announcing the task force. “These thieves are hopping from city to city stealing these converters in a matter of minutes. We’ll have a much better chance catching the prolific offenders by combining our investigative resources.”
A catalytic converter is a device that converts toxic exhaust gases from an internal combustion engine into less-toxic pollutants. The converters contain precious metals in a muffler-like package attached to the exhaust pipe. It’s readily accessible underneath the car, and thieves can steal them within minutes. They sell them for the precious metals, and it can cost car owners thousands to replace.
“Catalytic converter theft is a big problem with no easy solution. We need to think outside the box when tackling this issue and target the thieves and those that purchase the stolen catalytic converters,” Shirley added. “We believe the Catalytic Converter Task Force put us in a better position to do that.”
The departments formed the task force in November, and the agencies have already arrested 11 catalytic converter thieves. The departments are sharing that information and building a database to track and investigate potential “bigger fish.”
The nine law enforcement agencies on the task force include Bellevue, King County Sherriff’s Office, Redmond, Kirkland, Bothell, Medina, Clyde Hill, Mercer Island and Issaquah.
In addition to the task force, the Bellevue Police Department is launching Project CATCON ID, which will offer residents free catalytic converter etching & painting events to help deter thieves, as well as other theft prevention strategies. Details on the Project CATCON ID events will be announced soon.