‘This is an industry that has to be shut down’: State legislature to address rise in catalytic converter thefts

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HOUSTON – The Chair of the State Legislature’s Criminal Justice Committee, Senator John Whitmire, D-Houston, is researching, reviewing, and preparing for next year’s legislative session where he hopes to address the rise in catalytic converter thefts.

Whitmire wants the Houston Police Department to consider doing more undercover work to find and arrest potential suspects.

“HPD, with additional resources, should do more stings. I’m going to be emphasizing that and (I’m) listening for them.”

According to Houston police, in 2020 there were 1,793 reported incidents of catalytic converter theft. In 2021, a spike at 7,822.

For the first two months of 2022, there were 1,974 reported incidents of catalytic converter thefts in Houston.

“We’re all alarmed by the catalytic converter surge because of the violence it presents,” Whitmire said.

He and other state legislature committee chairs were called by Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, President of the State Senate, and the Speaker of the House to research, prepare, review, and make recommendations ahead of the next legislative session.

“I added a charge, in response, to continued reports of a crime wave hitting Texas: the theft of catalytic converters from vehicles,” writes Patrick in a statement. “This crime is costly to motorists and can be very dangerous. While these crimes can be random thefts by petty thieves, this is now a big business organized crime operation.”

Whitmire also wants to look at what happens after the parts are stolen.

“I’m of the opinion that you just prevent the resell and reuse of a stolen catalytic converter,” Whitmire said. “This is an industry that has to be shut down.”

Whitmire added that if he’s able to move forward with his proposal banning reselling catalytic converters, he expects opposition.

“Insurance companies will push back. They don’t want to have to pay for a new one, but I don’t care about their concerns either. We’ve got to stop something that is feeding the criminal surge, the crime surge in Houston Harris County.”

In a statement, Lt. Governor Patrick writes, if he gets approval from Deputy Darren Almendarez’s family, he will recommend naming the bill after him.

Sen. Whitmire expects to begin hearings by the end of April or May.

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