HOUSTON - With a continuing rash of catalytic converter thefts soaring in Houston and across the country, more people are worrying that their vehicle might be next.
Houston police say the number of reported thefts has been multiplying, from a few hundred in 2019, to a pace that could reach nearly 17,000 cases, this year.
Since each of those converters holds valuable precious metals, and is very easy to steal, more owners are trying to avoid the hassle. Some auto shops are joining the effort to offer some protection against thousands of dollars worth of damage from thieves.
At Alvin's BC Auto, mechanics have just installed a catalytic converter shield on Kim Bullard's Toyota SUV. With business all over the metro, she's seen too many stories of catalytic converter thefts.
"You go in to the post office, come out, and they're gone," she worries. "You go into Target and you become a target. It's scary."
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Like many auto repair facilities, the problem has been inescapable, for BC Auto, from the steady ring of customers who need help, to thieves who've stolen about a dozen converters from vehicles at the garage.
"They know what they're doing," says BC Auto's Bean Elliot. "It doesn't take a lot of time to get the converter off the vehicle."
With replacement parts costing thousands, and wait times that can take months, Elliot found a heavy-duty catalytic converter shield that he's started offering customers. It bolts-on, over the converter, and makes a difficult target for would-be thieves.
"I don't want to see anybody making car notes, on a car they can't drive," says Elliot. "Being that we can't replace the parts with factory parts, it's a pretty big issue, so we have to protect what we can."
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For Kim Bullard, the investment brings peace of mind.
"My husband, and I, went to the movies, and we didn't worry about the car, because I thought 'They're gonna' have a heck of a time trying to get that thing off."
The shield cost about $1,000 to install. While it is a lot of money, and there are other shield-makers available, the investment may be enough to slow thieves down enough that it's not worth the effort and risk of getting caught.