Austin, TX – The Criminal Justice Committee chaired by Senator John Whitmire (D-Houston), passed a serious crackdown bill on catalytic converter theft; SB 224 by Senator Carol Alvarado (D-Houston). Senator Middleton’s (R-Galveston) SB 432 and Senator Bettencourt’s (R-Houston) SB 465 were combined into Senator Alvarado’s SB 224 in a Committee Substitute as the Senate’s Bipartisan voice determined to stop these statewide catalytic converter thefts.
Chairman Whitmire remarked, “No pride of authorship, let’s just get the job done.”
Senator Alvarado named the bill after a constituent and Harris County Deputy who was shot to death during a catalytic converter crime. “Almost a year ago today, Harris County Deputy Darren Almendarez was shot and killed when he interrupted 3 men attempting to steal a catalytic converter from his personal vehicle outside a grocery store. His wife Flor was with him and she’s here today,” said Senator Alvarado.
SB 224 is enhanced by Senator Bettencourt’s SB 465 language that creates a criminal offense for someone with unauthorized possession of a catalytic converter and allows catalytic converter theft to be prosecuted as organized crime. “Senator Alvarado highlighted our bill’s criminal mischief statute and engaging in organized criminal activity as important additions to SB 224. The theft losses from these criminal rings amounts to over 100 million dollars a year in my estimation,” said Senator Paul Bettencourt.
Several catalytic converter industry dealers and recyclers testified in addition to overwhelming support from law enforcement for SB 224. However, the most powerful testimony came from Flor Zarzoza, the widow of Deputy Almendarez, whose testimony was devastating as she emphasized what she faced in bond hearings having to see the three alleged perpetrators. She concluded by saying her husband told her previously to “never give up.” She also testified that yesterday she was in court and saw alleged catalytic converter thieves who were caught with cut catalytic converters and weapons being released on bond by Judge Robert Johnson, State District Court 177 in Harris County.
Dean Whitmire concluded, “You give us the energy we need…we’re not going to give up.”
SB 224 will move to the Senate Floor for final passage.