Victoria City Council will hold a public hearing on the ordinance passed June 21 relating to the purchase of catalytic converters.
The city has seen an increase of the theft of catalytic converters, which help scrub pollutants from vehicle exhausts. Because they contain precious metals in their production and are fairly easy to remove from vehicles, once stolen they can bring between $50 and $250 for each one. City Council approved the ordinance to give law enforcement more leeway to detain criminals found in possession of the converters without proof of ownership.
The ordinance will likely go through one more public hearing after the one scheduled for Tuesday before it becomes law. During the June 21 hearing, Victoria Deputy Police Chief Chuck Young said before passage of the ordinance that officers had to locate the vehicle as well as the criminal with the stolen converter to confirm the commission of a crime.
“We want to do what we can to make the target harder to get to,” Young said.
As the result of the increasing prices of the precious metals used in their production, a stolen catalytic converter can be sold to an unscrupulous recycling facility, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau. The cost to replace a catalytic converter can be as much as $3,000, though some can cost as much as $10,000.
The precious metals used to clean exhausts include rhodium, platinum and palladium. Most vehicles on the road have catalytic converters, which have been required since 1975. According to the American Automobile Association, vehicles that sit higher off the ground are more common targets, as they allow thieves easier access to the converters. These types of vehicles include trucks, pickups, SUVs and vans.
Due to the precious metals in catalytic converters, the crime bureau has reported that the claims of catalytic converters thefts rose nationally from 3,389 in 2019 to 14,433 in 2020. Victoria had 95 catalytic converters thefts in 2021 but as of May 24, have already had 65 reported stolen and are projected to have 174 by the end of the year. This is an 83% increase over 2021.
City staff recommended adopting an ordinance focused on the possession of cut or un-bolted catalytic converters, which is a common method to remove the catalytic converters during the theft. By implementing such an ordinance officers would be able to take enforcement action, greatly reducing these thefts.
It only takes minutes for a skilled criminal to remove a converter, and it’s not unheard of for thieves to target an unguarded bus or truck depot and steal an entire lot’s worth in one night. Young has seen criminals, many of whom are involved with organized crime, target shopping malls, movie theater complexes, automotive dealers, and hotels and motels.
Texas ranks second among states with the most catalytic converter thefts. If a catalytic converter has been lawfully removed, it will be unbolted from the rest of the exhaust system.
Victoria City Councilman Mark Loffgren, who represents Super District 6, first mentioned the thefts of catalytic converters to the City Council.
The ordinance’s language might have to be fine-tuned during the next council meeting to ensure metal recyclers with a legitimate need to have converters are protected. Those found guilty of violating the ordinance will face a misdemeanor fine of at least $500.
During Tuesday’s meeting the council is also expected to purchase 32 acres at 2501 N. Main St. for $750,000 from Jumping World USA as the site for the future city public safety headquarters.
A long-time journalist, George likes 60s musclecars and firearms.