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Seattle Humane latest target in spike of catalytic converter thefts

Law enforcement agencies across western Washington have reported a spike in catalytic converter thefts since the start of the pandemic.

BELLEVUE, Wash. — Seattle Humane took in over a dozen cats from Mississippi on Friday, but it was a rescue mission that almost didn't happen.

"Early morning, on Thursday, March 4, somebody pulled into our parking lot, got out and proceeded to cut and steal the catalytic converters from four of our transport vehicles," said Brandon Macz with Seattle Humane. 

Catalytic converters are often stolen in just minutes, according to police. The catalytic converter is part of the exhaust system and every car made after 1974 has one. They're often stolen to sell the precious metals within the converter. 

Seattle Humane isn't alone. Law enforcement agencies throughout King County said catalytic converter thefts are becoming a big problem. 

Preliminary data from the Seattle Police Department shows the rise in catalytic converter thefts jumped from 13 in 2019 to more than 700 in 2020, and 123 were already reported in January of this year.

RELATED: Thefts of catalytic converters spike amid pandemic

"It’s against the law to drive without it. So you need to have it on there," said Capt. Darryl McKinney of Bellevue Police. He said 2021 is already off to an alarming start in his city as well.

"We're already up to 38 through the first two months. I mean, it's really going through the roof," he said.

Bellevue’s data shows just one converter theft in 2019 compared to 62 in 2020, and now 38 as of February 2021. McKinney added the spike seemed to correlate with when quarantine orders started.

"All the businesses closed up, thieves didn't have a place to go steal. And now, all of a sudden, any car that's made after 1974 has a catalytic converter on it. They're everywhere," he said.

Meanwhile, Macz said despite the theft, the work at Seattle Humane is moving forward.

"We're hopeful that this stops and that the police are successful in finding whoever's doing this. You know, but it's not going to stop us at the end of the day from fulfilling our mission of saving lives and completing families," said Macz. 

Macz said Seattle Humane was luckily able to take three of the vans to a local shop in Issaquah and get them fixed "at cost," which saved them about half of the $1,600 quote they were given for each van. 

Macz added they are looking into possible fencing or other measures to protect their vans in the future. 

Bellevue police said they are actively investigating this case.

RELATED: Spike in catalytic converter thefts reported across western Washington