AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas Senate passed a bill on Monday that would issue harsher penalties for people involved in catalytic converter thefts.

“This has become a very violent crime, a very sophisticated crime,” said Texas Sen. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, one of the bill’s authors.

The legislation puts stricter punishments in place for individuals even found in possession of catalytic converters.

“There’s no good reason you should be in possession of a catalytic converter, and the presumption should be that it was stolen because this is not a victimless crime,” said Sen. Mayes Middleton, R-Galveston.

People who are in possession of the car parts for legitimate business reasons would be exempt.

The legislation also aims to specifically stop crime rings that target the car parts by making it a first-degree felony for anyone involved with possessing more than $300,000 worth of converters. If suspects are found to have used a gun during a theft, the punishment would increase as well.

According to State Farm, catalytic converter thefts have risen 400% since 2019.

Last year, off-duty Harris County Deputy Darren Almendarez was shot and killed when he confronted three suspects going after his personal truck’s catalytic converter in a grocery store parking lot.

In February, Cedar Park Police found two men with 28 suspected stolen catalytic converters.

“Really hope the stricter punishment with help deters people from stealing,” said Joe Clonan, whose catalytic converter was stolen from his car – while it was parked in his gated apartment complex – in June 2022.

He still doesn’t have a replacement part – and he said he’s out a lot of money as well.

“Insurance is saying they’ll write me a $400 check for a $3,000 part,” he said.

We’ve reached out to his insurance company to get a better understanding of coverage for stolen converters, but have not yet heard back. We will update this article when we do.

According to the witness list for the bill, multiple law enforcement agencies were in favor of the bill, and no one went on the record against it. It will now go to a House committee.