AUSTIN (KXAN) – Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill into law Tuesday afternoon that creates new criminal offenses surrounding the theft of catalytic converters.
State Senator Carol Alvarado, D- Houston, filed Senate Bill 224 – known as the Deputy Darren Almendarez Act – which was designed to address the spike in catalytic converter thefts across the state. Thefts of this kind have increased by 1,200% from 2019 to 2021, per the National Insurance Crime Bureau.
“These catalytic converter thefts have increased substantially in the past few years,” Abbott said. “Catalytic converter thefts have become an organized and often violent crime. So what I’m going to sign today is going to increase criminal penalties for offenses involving catalytic converter thefts as well as to create a new criminal offense for unlawful possession.”
The law honors Harris County Deputy Sheriff Darren Almendarez. He was shot and killed while off-duty on March 31, 2022, when he tried to stop three men from stealing the device from his vehicle. Almendarez’s wife, Flo, was with him when he was shot and stood behind Abbott as the governor signed the bill Tuesday.
The law bumps up the punishment for stealing a catalytic converter to a felony offense and increases the penalty if the actor uses a firearm when stealing a device.
Further, the bill text states that if someone is in possession of two or more catalytic converters, law enforcement will presume they were acquired unlawfully unless that person works in a profession where having these devices around is typical — for example, a dealership or an automotive repair shop.
Catalytic converters contain valuable, precious metals — such as rhodium, palladium and platinum — which can be worth thousands of dollars. People saw catalytic converters off of vehicles and sell them to metal recycling entities.
Similar bills were filed this legislative session — including SB 432 by Sen. Mayes Middleton, R-Galveston and SB 465 by Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston — hoping to target the rise in catalytic converter thefts. Those two bills were combined to make SB 224 in a bipartisan effort to ensure the bill would pass, per a press release sent in March.
“No pride of authorship, let’s just get the job done,” said Senator John Whitmire, D-Houston, in the release.