Huge spike in catalytic converter thefts reported across Lubbock this year

Published: Apr. 14, 2022 at 7:06 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - It’s the latest crime wave to hit the Hub City, and everyone who owns a car is a potential target.

Thieves are climbing under vehicles, sometimes in broad daylight, to steal catalytic converters. The precious metals inside them can be worth thousands of dollars.

From January to March of 2021, 11 converters were reported stolen, according to Lubbock police. Over that same time period this year, there have been 84 thefts, nearly eight times as many.

It can happen in less than a minute according to LPD’s Public Information Officer Kasie Davis.

“In as little as 38 seconds,” Davis said.

Less than a minute spent, but thousands of dollars worth of damage done.

“The reality is, these criminals are hitting. They’re hitting quickly,” Davis said. “They’re taking those catalytic converters and moving on.”

Thieves are not after the converters as they are, but what they can get out of them in rhodium, platinum and palladium, precious metals found in catalytic converters, Davis said.

Today palladium is worth more than $2,000 per ounce. Rhodium is worth more than $19,000 as a shortage in supply is sending the value of those metals through the roof.

“Rhodium is more expensive than gold,” Scott Egert, owner of Scott’s Complete Car Care said. “So they’re robbing jewelry stores in their minds. You get a few together and they’re worth a lot of money.”

The number of thefts is rising fast.

“We’re just seeing tons of them daily,” Egert said.

KCBD contacted multiple salvage yards and part recycling businesses across the city, looking for somewhere to sell a catalytic converter.

We were met with one word in almost every instance. A simple “no.”

“Everybody wishes they knew where they were going with them. They’d catch them when they got there with them,” Egert said. “But the black market, I don’t know. Legitimate people aren’t buying them.”

Stealing a catalytic converter is now a state felony, but that’s not stopping the thieves

“So what we see that these thieves are doing is, they are essentially finding a fake VIN number and sticking that on the catalytic converter to be able to sell it,” Davis said.

Egert mentioned one local business that has multiple vehicles out of commission after they were hit.

“They got three box trucks,” Egert said. “Just went in and bam bam bam they’re gone with them.”

The cost for repairs is estimated at $10,000.

So how do you avoid being a victim? Davis and Egert had a similar response.

If you have a garage, use it. There are some parts you can purchase to shield your converter, but they aren’t perfect, and could cause damage to your car from heat buildup.

Egert said you can try to deter thieves, but in the end, if they want your converter bad enough, they’re likely going to get it.

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