CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Rhodium, Palladium and Platinum are the valuables in catalytic converters. If you’ve got a car like a van, SUV or a truck you could be the most vulnerable to these thefts. And that's exactly what auto shops are seeing.
Since the beginning of 2020 there's been a 312 percent increase in catalytic converter thefts according to Corpus Christi Police Department Auto Investigative Unit. In all of 2020 there were 260 thefts reported. Interim Police Chief David Blackmon told city council the demand for the converters precious metals went up during the pandemic.
“We’re having our catalytic converter thieves taking advantage of the knowledge of those things in these catalytic converters and they’re stealing them, quite frankly," Blackmon said. "It’s taking about 30 seconds for somebody to slid underneath the car, cut those off and they’re on their way.”
Converters help with the emissions put out by your car. You’ll know it’s missing by a loud unfamiliar noise when starting your vehicle.
“You’re gong to hear a really loud noise on the bottom of the car," said Jerry Zamora, owner of Zam Automotive. "We’ve actually had a lot of customers call in, in the morning, that their car is making a loud nose. They get it towed in to the shop and the catalytic converter is missing.”
Zamora said he can’t park customers trucks or SUVs in his back lot over night in fear the converters will be taken. He said he’s heard of a few thefts at area auto shops, among other places.
“Honestly, we’re having these things stolen from parking lots at the Walmart," said Blackmon. "I mean, you’re going in to buy something, you’re coming out you’re getting in your car and you’re wondering what is that noise? During the day. There is no time or place that’s more apt to have your vehicle’s catalytic converter stolen.”
Gov. Greg Abbott recently signed a bill to make it harder to sell converters. House Bill 4110 states you have to provide year, make, model, VIN number and title of the car it came from to sell it to recycle facilities. Zamora believes the majority are being sold in black market deals.
“These metals weren’t listed as precious metals under the state law," Blackmon said. "So we’ve been working with state legislature to petition them to get a bill through, to get those put into the state law. And under House Bill 4110 that was able, that was successful..”
The recommendation is to park in a garage if you can or in a well lit area with other cars.
“There are some tings online that you can buy as far as CAT defenders and stuff like that," said Zamora. "They’re welding sheets on the bottom of the cars. We haven’t done any to see how they work out or.. Catalytic converters build up a lot of heat. So, that’s one thing you got to keep in mind. You don’t want to put a shield on it. They do have to breath.”