SAN ANTONIO – Auto part thieves have been busy striking neighborhoods, apartment complexes and business parking lots looking to steal catalytic converters.
Allan Peel, a San Antonio resident, was a victim of those thieves about a month ago.
“It sounded like it needed a new muffler or something. It was like a very loud motorcycle,” Peel said about what he heard when he turned on his Toyota Prius.
A mechanic soon told him it was probably his catalytic converter that was missing.
Peel is not alone. Several law enforcement agencies in the area say there have been reports of catalytic converters being stolen. The part is stolen for the precious metals inside, which can sometimes cost hundreds to thousands of dollars.
Jonathan Lamb, public information officer of the Kerrville Police Department, says officers are looking for information on two suspects who were captured on surveillance video in several cases.
Since the start of the year, there have been eight thefts reported in Kerrville, and Lamb suspects they may be tied to the same group.
“They struck commercial parking lots for commercial vehicles, like delivery trucks. They’ve struck apartment complexes. They struck residential areas in neighborhoods,” Lamb said.
Lamb urges people to take precautions, park in well-lit areas and set their alarms to sensitive mode. For now, police are looking for tips on these cases.
“We encourage vehicle owners to engrave their VIN, vehicle identification number, onto the catalytic converter to give a scrap dealer the means to verify whether or not they’re actually receiving stolen property,” Lamb said.
Peel says his comprehensive insurance covered the cost to replace his catalytic converter, but his agent warned him it could happen again.
“You can expect the crooks to come back to your driveway after a couple of weeks to see if you’ve had it repaired because they’ll just go ahead and steal it again,” Peel said he was told.
He looked for a solution and thinks he found one. Cat Security is a company that provides plates that cover the auto part. It costs less than $200 for the part, and the company makes different types of models.
Joseph Brodnik says the company was born in 2019 when a two-time victim wanted a permanent solution.
“The owner of our company designed this plate, the Generation 2 Prius plate,” he said.
Other similar parts have been developed since then. Brodnik says the market has grown in Texas.
“In the northern parts of Texas, it’s the Prius and the Element in southern Texas. We’re seeing a lot of requests for trucks,” Brodnik said.
He says that, out of the thousands of plates sold so far, only a handful have been breached. In those cases, it was because the entire vehicle was stolen.
Customers have shared videos of thieves turning away from a vehicle with a cover and moving onto another.
Peel says he feels a lot better about having the extra protection on his vehicle. He hopes the information helps others before their parts are stolen.