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Houston catalytic converter theft continues to hit Houston, Texas, hard but is there signs of improvement?

Houston, Texas, is experiencing record-high rates of catalytic converter theft in 2022. Growing precious metal prices, high inflation, and increased organized criminal activity are causing catalytic converter theft in the Houston metro area to be a big problem.

While there has been a dip in reported catalytic converter thefts in the past few months, there has been a huge year-over-year increase from the past few years. The dip is due to local law enforcement taking down a major crime ring. But that doesn’t mean that the catalytic converter theft issue has been solved.

In Houston and around the state of Texas and across the United States, catalytic converter theft continues to be a problem. While many are stolen via major theft rings, common street thieves have learned that the high resale price for stolen cats is attractive.

How many catalytic converters are stolen in Houston?

The actual number of stolen catalytic converters can be difficult to obtain since there is no central reporting agency for stolen catalytic converters, and not all stolen catalytic converters get reported to insurance.

The number of catalytic converter thefts in the Houston metro area is estimated by us to be somewhere in the 3500-5000/year range for 2022, with just a little over one month to go until 2023.

While we can’t be sure of the exact number, what we do know is that there were approximately 3000 catalytic converter thefts in the unincorporated areas of Harris county alone. That does not include the incorporated city areas of Houston, Pasadena, and Baytown. This was according to Harris County Sheriff’s Department, Sgt. Eduardo Rivera, in an interview with Houston Public Media.

What is the average cost of catalytic converter replacement in Houston?

According to RepairPal.com, the average cost to replace a catalytic converter in the Houston metro area is $1997 to $2074. However, this is just an average across all vehicles. Some of the more popular targeted vehicles, like the Toyota Prius, Jeep Patriot, Jeep Renegade, Honda Element, and Toyota Tundra, can cost upwards of $3000-5000!

And some vehicles have more than one catalytic converter, so if the repair is not covered by insurance, owners take a huge financial hit, not to mention a huge inconvenience since supply chain woes and labor shortages have slowed down repair shops in many places.

Houston Hot Spots For Catalytic Converter Theft

While vehicles can be a target of catalytic converter theft in just about any location, areas that frequently get hit the hardest are in and around major shopping malls or strip malls, or at personal residences. Apartment complex parking lots get hit hard since would-be catalytic converter thieves can target several vehicles at once.

Small businesses, specifically those that own a small fleet of company vehicles, are also often victims and often hit multiple times, knowing that the vehicles must be repaired.

Another recent hotspot was the Bush Intercontinental Airport. There have been multiple thefts at the ecopark lots, according to ABC13 news.

What is local law enforcement doing?

Catalytic converter theft is a crime that only takes a minute to commit. Using a battery-powered Sawzall, a thief can cut through the exhaust pipe in mere seconds and, with two simple cuts, remove the converter.

Protecting your catalytic converter starts with prevention and protection

Unless there is a law enforcement presence nearby, it is unlikely the theft will be prevented unless your vehicle is equipped with a catalytic converter shield. These are protective steel or heavy gauge aluminum coverings that prevent access to cutting locations. While not 100% foolproof, they do deter would-be thieves.

Etching and painting your catalytic converter is another deterrent should a catalytic converter cover not be available for your vehicle. This makes your catalytic converter harder to resale at junkyards and precious metal recycling centers. Many thieves will simply pass on your vehicle if they see bright orange paint and will move on to a softer target.

If you are considering painting and etching your vehicles, look on local community sites, and law enforcement websites for upcoming etching events that are open to the public, or you can easily do it yourself with just a can of high-temperature engine paint and an electric or battery-powered engraver.

Investigating catalytic converter crime

After the death of Harris County Deputy Darren Almendarez, who was killed while trying to stop thieves from stealing his catalytic converter, Houston authorities apprehended six individuals responsible for operating an organized theft ring. This organized theft ring was responsible for nearly $12 million dollars in stolen catalytic converters in the Houston area.

Recently, another arrest was made after a homeowner notified men around her car, and police later pulled them over and found several catalytic converters. The homeowner had noticed that her vehicle had a partial cut-out converter after the men took off.

With these arrests, Houston authorities have certainly put a temporary dent into these theft rings.

Because of the speed at which a catalytic converter can be removed, it is very rare to catch criminals in the act. Therefore, prevention and protection are the best ways to reduce your risk of being a victim.