WACO, Texas — Brittany Derrick took her children to the movie theatre at 4 p.m. on a Tuesday. When the movie was over, she knew something was wrong.
"I started my car and it was just really loud," Derrick said.
She didn't know about thieves recently targeting catalytic converters, but a friend knew what to check.
"He actually looked underneath and saw that's what had happened in broad daylight," she said.
Her story isn't uncommon in Waco, especially as an owner of a Toyota.
"When my friend noticed what had happened, he was like 'Oh I actually noticed there was a police officer in the parking lot'," Derrick said. "So we went and grabbed her and she came over and said she'd been called there for another Toyota Sequoia that had theirs stolen at the same time."
The Waco Police Department has had 177 reports of stolen catalytic converters just this year, mostly from Toyotas and Mitsubishis.
"We've had instances where people are being hit three and four times," Waco PD's Cierra Shipley said. "Even if you do have your catalytic converter stolen and put it back on, it's very easy for the criminal to come back and hit that car again."
The thefts come less than a year after Texas Legislature passed HB 4110. The law makes it a felony to buy catalytic converters from anyone other than a manufacturer.
"So these criminals who were stealing these catalytic converters couldn't go anywhere and sell them," Shipley said. "We saw a lull once that law passed for a few months and just recently we saw an increase in those again this year."
There are a few ways to protect yourself, according to police. That includes parking in well-lit and populated areas near the front of a parking lot. You can also etch your VIN number into the converter.
"If that catalytic converter comes up somewhere else as being sold, we might be able to trace it and get it back to you," Shipley said. "Also, it's just going to maybe prevent that criminal from stealing that catalytic converter because they know you're paying attention."
Following those precautions can help save you a ton of money. Catalytic converters run about $5,000 from a dealership if they are available at all.
Toyota in Waco said they have a 6 to 8-month backorder.