WHITE SETTLEMENT, Texas — It was just another early morning patrol through a White Settlement neighborhood, until it wasn’t.
Two White Settlement police officers encountered what has become a growing problem nationwide and in North Texas: catalytic converter thefts.
It happens a lot, but actually seeing it happen? That’s uncommon.
But at around 4:30 a.m. Wednesday morning, that’s what happened.
Officers were in the middle of refueling their patrol vehicle when they heard the loud sound of a drill in the neighborhood. According to White Settlement Police Chief Christopher Cook, they began driving through the 8100 block of Downe Dr. and encountered a man underneath a jacked up van. Police surveillance video captured the moment the suspect ran after he saw police.
Police bodycam video captured the moment officers began to run after him.
“It is very rare when you catch a suspect in the act of actually committing an offense and extremely more rare that you catch a catalytic converter theft,” Cook said.
The suspect didn’t get away. He hopped several backyard fences and eventually ended up on someone’s decorated backyard porch. Police asked him to lay on the ground and arrested him.
“This case it just happened to be the officer at the right place,” Cook said.
Police charged the suspect, Juan Aguilar, with felony theft of precious metals and evading arrest.
Officers say they found the suspect’s collection of tools and the catalytic converter hanging from the van.
The National Insurance Crime Bureau reported catalytic converter thefts across the country quadrupled between 2019 and 2020.
“It has really taken North Texas by storm,” Cook said.
According to State Farm, Texas ranks as the second state for the most catalytic converter thefts across the country.
Cook told WFAA the thefts are difficult to track down because catalytic converters, often times, don’t have serial numbers.
“This is a money making opportunity for some of these criminals,” Cook said. “A lot of times, these thefts will occur in 60 seconds or less.”
Catalytic converters contain precious metals that can fetch up to $14,000 dollars per ounce, according to Cook.
Replacing a stolen catalytic converter can cost someone thousands of dollars, and if an older vehicle’s catalytic converter is discontinued, the entire vehicle must be replaced.
Cook said his department is working with other North Texas police departments to identify repeat offenders.