EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- Catalytic converter thefts are on the rise across the nation, including here in El Paso.
According to data ABC-7 obtained through an open records request, 350 catalytic converter thefts were reported in 2022. In 2013, only 17 were stolen. That's a nearly 2,000% increase in thefts.
The converters, which help to clean up emissions in cars, contain precious metals such as palladium, rhodium, and platinum. According to RightDrive, a local car dealership in the lower valley, the converters can fetch anywhere from $300 to $1,500 from scrapyards.
"From what we're told, the [catalytic converters] can be in and out in about 30 seconds," says Chris MacDonald, the marketing director for RightDrive. He added that higher-profile cars, such as trucks and SUV's, are more susceptible to theft, as it's easier to access the underneath of the vehicle.
"It's easy money. It's money that criminal enterprises have moved into," says Texas state Senator Paul Bettencourt.
He's proposed legislation, Senate Bill 465, that aims to hold criminals accountable for stealing catalytic converters.
The bill would make it illegal for any person to be in possession of a catalytic converter removed from a vehicle, unless they’re on an approved list of businesses that can legally possess one. This includes employees of recycling plants, salvage yards, automotive shops, or "other entities who possess converters through the course of everyday business," according to the bill.
"This is something that everybody's ready to do something about," he says. "The key thing is to make it easier for law enforcement to catch these criminal enterprises, and creates penalties [to make sure] they're not around to do it again," Bettencourt added.
The bill has to pass through the senate and the house in order to be signed into law.