CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — A new state law aims to stifle the thefts of catalytic converters.
It requires more information must be given when someone is trying to sell a converter to a metal recycling center.
“It’s going to have some things that are going to require these buyers to identify, not only the person that’s selling the converter, but also the car it came from and making sure that the seller has some kind of financial interest or ownership in that vehicle," said Lt. Mark Tuley of the Corpus Christi Police Department's Auto Theft Task Force. "And so, it’s going to make it much more difficult to sell these converters to legitimate businesses.“
The law requires a seller of a converter to provide the make, model, year, vehicle identification number and proof of ownership of the car the converter came from. If that can't be verified, recycling centers cannot purchase the converter.
“Some people have to be held accountable, especially the people that are buying them," said Jerry Zamora, owner of Zam Automotive. "Slow it down. People are incurring a big cost on these catalytic converters. And I look forward to it, I really do.”
Tuley said making catalytic converter sales difficult will cut down on their thefts.
“When the legitimate buyers stop buying them it’s going to take away the motivation for thieves to steal them,” Tuley said.
That includes written and electronic record of time, date and price paid, address of seller and the seller's thumbprint unless a valid cash transaction card is presented. Records have to be kept at least for two years.
Violation of this law is a jail felony. For repeat offenders, it's a third-degree felony.
Earlier in the summer, we reported converter thefts were up over 300 percent since January 2020. The value of the precious metals, platinum, palladium and rhodium, within catalytic converters has soared through the pandemic.
Zam Automotive only installs converters, but has had people approach the business for other reasons.
“I believe it’s still pretty big," Zamora said. "We still have people come in maybe once a week every two weeks (checking) if we buy catalytic converters. We get that call a lot. We get people driving in trying to sell their catalytic converters on cars, stuff like that. I think it’s still paying big money for those metals.”
In late June, a man was killed during an attempted theft when he drew a gun on a CCPD officer. Tuley said thieves will take the converters off and sell them anywhere they can.
“They’re being sold all over," said Tuley. "Private people that are buying and recycling them or taking them to recycling centers. There’s legitimate businesses, there’s a huge commercial building up on (Interstate) 35 up by San Marcos and people may have seen that, that says catalytic converter recycling on the outside of it.”
From May through July 2021, there have been more than 158 converter thefts (55 in May, 70 in June and 33 in July). Tuley attributes a dip in July thefts to the arrest of a group of nine accused thieves presumed to be stealing converters.
“We had to identify the group and monitor that group for a while to build a case and ultimately get them arrested," said Tuley. "We had to work with the DA's office who’s been great with us. We met directly with Mark Gonzalez last month to make sure that we can keep bonds high on these guys and keep them locked up in jail.”
We contacted several metal recycling businesses in Corpus Christi. They all declined to go on camera, but said they don’t do business involving catalytic converters.
Efforts to reach several victims of catalytic converter thefts were unsuccessful.