Catalytic converter thefts in Houston up more than 400%, data shows

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Catalytic converter thefts in the city of Houston are up more than 400% since last year, new data shows.

In January 2020, 71 cases were reported to the Houston Police Department compared to 298 in the same month this year.

Last February, 66 were reported stolen to police compared to 329 in February 2021. Meanwhile, in March 2020, 73 were reported stolen. There were 308 reports made in March of this year.

READ ALSO: 32 stolen catalytic converters found during traffic stop

Eyewitness News spoke with Kevin Riddle on Tuesday. She said she had her catalytic converter stolen in the parking lot of a grocery store at 9 a.m. She said there were only two other cars in the parking lot when she arrived.

"[I] went in, did my shopping, took my time, came out 45 minutes later, turned the car on and it sounded like a hot rod convention was happening in the parking lot," Riddle said.

She said a man in the parking lot saw her trying to figure out what was wrong and told her someone stole her catalytic converter.

Not having a catalytic converter does affect a car's ability to be driven, but Michael Poutous, owner of Poutous Auto Repair, does not recommend it. Not to mention, a car likely will not pass a state inspection without one.

"If your car sits high and you can get under the ground, usually what you'll see is a portion of your exhaust pipe will be gone and it will be a considerable section that's gone," Poutous said.

He said his shop is getting several calls a month about people whose converters have been stolen. He said one customer had theirs stolen twice in three weeks.

READ MORE: 3 suspects lead officers on chase after stealing 6 catalytic converters, HPD says

To get it replaced, it could set you back thousands of dollars.

"They are stealing so many of them that we have called [Toyota] several times and it's taken three or four weeks to get a converter for a Sequoia from Toyota," Poutous said.

Meanwhile, HPD said Toyota Sequoias, Tundras and Priuses are the main type of vehicles that are being targeted because they have more than one converter.

The car part contains precious metals like platinum and rhodium. Thieves are able to get anywhere from $50 to $875 when they re-sell them, according to the International Association of Auto Theft Investigators.

"They make a couple protective shields that go underneath the car with tamper-proof bolts that would make it really hard to get them out," Poutous said.

Police advise victims of catalytic converter theft to call them.

While they may not be able to get back to each victim, it may lead them to the center of the operation.

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