Austin, TX – Senator Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) filed Senate Bill 465 in response to the 5,300 percent jump in catalytic converter theft insurance claims in Texas since 2019. The spike is fueled by organized criminal rings who target catalytic converters for the precious metals inside them (palladium and rhodium) that are worth more per ounce than gold. Houston Police Chief Troy Finner put out a statement highlighting the double digit increase in auto thefts in Houston, “The city experienced an increase in property crimes in 2022. Thefts of catalytic converters by an organized crime ring and thefts of firearms not properly secured in vehicles, drove up the reported auto theft crimes by 11 percent.” This heinous enterprise even led to the death of Harris County Sheriff’s Deputy Darren Almendarez last March.
“This is an appalling public safety issue that we have to get under control, criminals are willing to kill over these converters,” said Senator Bettencourt. “Houston Police Department Chief Finner and his officers are on the front lines trying to stomp out these crime rings. Senate Bill 465 will help them by putting the obvious into law, only folks who work in areas that handle catalytic converters in their day-to-day operations should be in possession of a catalytic converter.” Said Senator Bettencourt.
SB 465 will help law enforcement and prosecutors across Texas charge and convict criminals targeting catalytic converters. Under SB 465, if a person is in possession of a catalytic converter that’s been removed from a vehicle, they then have committed a crime, unless they are on an approved list of businesses that can legally possess a catalytic converter that’s been removed from a vehicle. The list of approved businesses includes employees of wrecking and salvage yards, metal recycling entities, garage automotive shops, or other entities who possess converters through the course of everyday business. However, if a person associated with the previously mentioned businesses knows that the catalytic converter was acquired illegally, they are NOT protected under this statute and will be charged and prosecuted. Furthermore, SB 465 will add organized crime statutes that automatically increases the offense one category higher than the most serious offense listed if the convicted person is linked to organized crime.
“During the interim, I sat on Chairman John Whitmire’s Senate Committee on Criminal Justice and heard stories from Texans leaving work, parades, the grocery store, and finding their catalytic converters missing and the culprits long gone. If passed, Senate Bill 465 will help law enforcement crack down on these catalytic converter crime rings!” Concluded Senator Bettencourt.
The 60-day deadline for filing bills is March 10, 2023.