Catalytic converter thefts decline in Deep East Texas in wake of new law

Catalytic converter thefts decline in Deep East Texas in wake of new law
Published: Nov. 2, 2023 at 6:16 PM CDT|Updated: Nov. 2, 2023 at 8:52 PM CDT
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NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KTRE) - After crackdowns from the state and local police, some East Texas cities are reporting fewer catalytic converter thefts for this year.

Catalytic converters may look like a big piece of metal to the average person, but for the last few years, the essential car part has gotten the attention of thieves.

“It’s for financial gain. The pros are really good at it, and they can be under a car, out from under a car 45 seconds to a minute,” said Lufkin Police Corporal Dalton Estes

Estes said in his experience, thefts are likely to occur in public parking and home driveways.

“We have a tendency to think of this as a nighttime crime, but it happens right in the middle of the day as well,” he said.

A new law went into effect this year, creating new criminal penalties for catalytic converter thefts, and Estes believes it has helped. “The thing that’s against the law is the unauthorized possession of it, so just us catching you in possession of a converter that does not belong to you carries that state jail penalty,” Estes explained.

According to State Farm Insurance, their collected data saw a significant drop in catalytic converter theft claims, and Texas was the second state in the country to see a big difference.

In 2022, State Farm had 6,300 claims across the state, but from January through June of 2023, they filed 1,275.

Law enforcement is seeing that same decrease in Deep East Texas.

Lufkin PD had 51 reported thefts in 2022; this year, they had 13.

Nacogdoches PD reported 26 thefts in 2022, and up until this year, they have had only six reports.

“We started seeing a significant increase of the thefts beginning in 2019, 2020,” said Nacogdoches Police Sgt. Brett Ayres.

He explained with the new law, places that buy car parts are required to collect information on the seller and the vehicle the part came from.

“There’s a lot of accountability, so for the thieves that want to steal the catalytic converters, there’s not nearly as many places for them to take those converters and get money for them,” he said.

Catalytic converter theft may be a state jail felony when the property is valued below $30,000, which could land someone in jail for up to two years. Once the value of multiple stolen catalytic converters exceeds $30,000, the offense becomes a third-degree felony. Once the value exceeds $150,000 the offense becomes a second-degree felony. If the value exceeds $300,000, the offense becomes a first-degree felony.