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SB 224 may curb appetite for car part

by | Jun 16, 2023 | Latest

Criminals who steal catalytic converters will face stiffer penalties if caught and convicted. Gov. Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 224 into law on Tuesday, June 6. The measure by Sen. Carol Alvarado (D-Houston) is the companion to the House bill filed by Rep. Jeff Leach (R-Plano).

However, authorities report the number of thefts has decreased along with the price of the precious metals they contain.

Catalytic converters are installed in the exhaust system of vehicles to reduce harmful emissions. They help convert toxic pollutants, such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and hydrocarbons, into less harmful substances before they are released into the atmosphere.

As the name implies, catalytic converters contain a catalyst, usually made of platinum, palladium or rhodium, which facilitates the chemical reactions. As those metals became more valuable, catalytic converters became a quick way for lawbreakers to make a buck.

Rhodium, a silver-white metallic element is resistant to corrosion and considered the rarest and most valuable precious metal in the world. Its price peaked at $29,800 per troy ounce in March 2021, creating an epidemic of thefts with Houston police reporting 15,771 stolen in 2022.

But the global market for the metal has plummeting nearly 49% since the start of 2023, with the current price at $6,400 per ounce, or $205.76 per gram. There are about one to two grams of rhodium in the typical catalytic converter.

So, where the price of a stolen converter could once be worth thousands, today’s price – and new penalties – make theft a less attractive proposition.

Even when metals prices were high, theft was not a big issue in Wylie. Sgt. Donald English, public information officer of the Wylie Police Department said the department received eight reports in 2022 and none so far in 2023.

It is relatively simple to steal a converter, especially from a vehicle with high ground clearance like a pickup truck, police say. Thieves target vehicles parked in secluded areas and can remove a converter in seconds using simple tools like hacksaws and wrenches.

Therefore, many vehicle owners have adopted preventive measures, such as installing protective shields or security devices, to deter thieves from targeting their converters. But a more successful approach to discouraging the thefts has been to target scrap yards that salvage the metals or auto mechanics who re-use the whole unit.

For the full story, see the June 14 issue of The Wylie News.

By Bob Wieland

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