Texas Senate bill proposes tougher penalties on catalytic converter thieves

KBTX News 3 at Six Weekday EXTENDED(Recurring)
Published: Mar. 30, 2023 at 6:03 PM CDT
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BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) - It’s an expensive crime on the rise all across Texas. Now, a new bill in Austin hopes to put a stop to catalytic converter thefts.

Senate Bill 224 was created by District 6 Texas Senator Carol Alvarado. If passed, the bill would treat catalytic converter thefts as an organized crime; making them a felony.

The bill aims to reduce the number of catalytic converter theft across the state, including the Brazos Valley.

Larry Sides is the owner of C & L Automotive in Bryan. Over the years, he’s had multiple customers come in without their catalytic converter.

“My dad started this shop in 1975. I worked with him even as a young teenager. I took over the business in ‘91,” said Sides. “The truck behind us, the customer told us it [catalytic converter] was stolen just about a month ago. Catalytic converter thefts are probably the biggest theft other than radios and things like that.”

During 2022, Bryan Police said there were about 130 catalytic converter thefts. So far this year, there have been two reported.

“Its mostly people that are caught unaware. People with cars that have ones that are easy access,” said Sides. “Any type of theft bothers me. But this, it’s so senseless. People shouldn’t have to go through that.”

Senator Alvarado told KBTX the bill will give prosecutors more flexibility when dealing with this crime. She said she created the bill for public safety, along with having one specific law enforcement officer in mind.

“What compelled me even more was the shooting and the death of Harris County deputy Darren Almendarez,” said Sen. Alvarado. “He and his wife were coming out of a grocery store and interrupted three guys stealing a catalytic converter from his truck. He was shot and killed right there in front of his wife. The bill is named after deputy Almendarez.”

The crime will only get more violent if there isn’t action taken, Sen. Alvarado said.

“The theft of catalytic converters has become a very organized crime. A very dangerous crime and sophisticated. It’s happening way too much, ” Sen. Alvarado said. “My hope is that it comes to the Senate floor on Monday. Then we’ll send it over to the house. I’m confident that representative Leach will get it to his committee and get it passed. So, we’ll have a bill that really tackles this crime.”

Bryan and College Station Police have already charged some catalytic converter thieves with engaging in organized criminal activity when several suspects have been arrested at the same time.

Senators Charles Schwertner and Lois Kolkhorst are both co-sponsors of the bipartisan bill.