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Catalytic converter thefts soar in North Texas, but catching thieves is rare

Top Stories in Dallas - Fort Worth, June 29
Top Stories in Dallas - Fort Worth, June 29 01:59

WHITE SETTLEMENT, Texas (CBSDFW.COM)  The sound of a power drill being used before the sun was up Wednesday, alerted police officers to a suspected catalytic converter thief, who they caught in the middle of the act.

White Settlement police chased down and arrested the man, in what they described as a rare arrest in what has become an increasingly common and frustrating crime for car owners.

Chief Chris Cook said two of his officers were outside putting gas in the patrol SUV's just before 4:30 a.m. when one of them heard what sounded like a drill.

They decided to investigate and just a few hundred feet away, saw a man roll out from underneath a small SUV parked on the street in front of a house and start running. The officers chased after him, first in their vehicles, then on foot, eventually finding him trying to hide on the front porch of a nearby home.

They identified the man as Juan Aguilar, and arrested him on charges of theft of precious metals, evading arrest, and said he had two open warrants.

Catalytic converter thefts have soared the past few years as thieves have targeted the precious metals inside. Because the parts can be cut or unbolted off a car in under a minute, catching thieves in the act is rare.

"Normally the way you make an arrest, is you kind of backtrack where they're selling them," Cook said. "That takes a lot of investigative time, a lot of paperwork to go through to figure out how to catch them that way."

He credited the officers with not ignoring the noise and investigating. He said they also found burglary tools in a car nearby that they believe belongs to Aguilar.

While Texas has strengthened laws to make it more difficult to sell stolen converters, Cook said investigators are starting to find more criminals are working around it by shipping stolen parts out of state, and not slowing thefts.

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