FORT WORTH, Texas — A report from AAA found that Harris County leads the entire state in catalytic converter thefts.
As of July, there were already 115 claims in the county. That number surpassed the total number of claims made last year, which totaled 114.
This comes as federal investigators said they've busted a second catalytic converter theft ring that was tied to the murder of Harris County Deputy Darren Almendarez. He was shot and killed while trying to stop three men from stealing the catalytic converter off his truck.
With catalytic converter theft on the rise in Houston, some drivers are turning to anti-theft shields to protect their cars.
"They’ve actually been in high demand, the catalytic convertor covers," said Daniel Casarez with Discount Hitch and Truck Accessories. "Unfortunately, we’ve seen a lot of high theft in the area and people are trying to avoid that at all costs."
Even though catalytic convertor shields will cost you about $200 to $500, it's a lot cheaper than getting a stolen catalytic converter replaced, which could run up to $2,000.
Discount Hitch and Truck Accessories' north Houston location has seen an increase in these shields from customers who don't want their car targeted next.
"If I’m a thief and I’m going to look, what does that process look like? Is it just harder to pull off and they don’t want to deal with it? Well yeah, they’re not going to deal with it. They’re probably gonna want to go to a catalytic convertor that’s already exposed and easy to get in and out," said Casarez.
More on catalytic converter thefts
The metal plate is installed underneath vehicles to slow down or even stop thieves in the act.
These thefts are happening so often that manufacturers are having a tough time replacing them, leaving drivers wishing they protected their cars when they had the chance.
"We may not need it. It may not be necessary. You don’t really know until it happens to you. If it happens to you that’s when it’s too late," Casarez said.
Manufacturers said getting a replacement catalytic convertor right now could take up to three to six months.
If you're interested in an anti-theft shield, catshield.com is also a good resource.
Why are they stealing catalytic converters?
Once stolen, thieves may be able to sell detached catalytic converters for hundreds of dollars to scrapyards or internet buyers, according to AAA Texas. After they are sold, catalytic converters can be resold to recyclers interested in the expensive metals inside them.
Recyclers will pay $50 to $250 per catalytic converter. Unfortunately for the victims of catalytic converter theft, the cost to replace the part runs between $1,000 to $3,000, depending on the car or truck. The vehicle may not be legal to drive until the part is replaced.
Catalytic converter theft prevention
AAA Texas offers the following tips to prevent catalytic converter theft:
- When possible, park in well-lit areas and close to building entrances.
- If you have a garage at your house, park your car inside and keep the garage door shut.
- If you own a high-clearance vehicle like a truck or SUV, store it in a secure location.
- Have the catalytic converter welded to your car’s frame, which may make it harder to steal.
- Look into buying a converter-protection device that has been developed for the Prius and other vehicles targeted by thieves.
- Consider engraving your vehicle identification number (VIN) on the catalytic converter – this may help alert a scrap dealer that it was stolen and make it easier to find the owner.
- Security devices, such as locks, are available that attach to the converter, making it harder to steal.
- Calibrate your car’s alarm to go off when it detects vibration.
- Carry a good insurance policy. Most insurance companies cover replacement costs if the vehicle owner has the optional comprehensive coverage, which covers damage to a vehicle not caused by a crash.