Campus sees rise in calytic converter thefts

By By Michael McFall, Staff Writer

By Michael McFall, Staff Writer

The ongoing thefts of catalytic converters across the Salt Lake valley has hit the U campus again.

At least four catalytic converters, car parts that lower pollution emissions from a car’s exhaust, have been stolen over the past two days. Three of the victimized automobiles are Toyotas, which might be because the model’s converters contain platinum used to clean the exhaust.

A converter was also taken from a Nissan truck, which might be because the car is higher off the ground and thus the converter is easier to reach, said Gary Bohman, a spokesman for Menlove Toyota Scion in Bountiful.

One Toyota and the Nissan had parts stolen in the University KinderCare parking lot, while the other two Toyota converters were stolen at 615 Arapeen Drive in Research Park. The parts were stolen between the hours of 3 p.m. and midnight Sept. 23. One victim in Research Park said he was only away from his Toyota Tacoma for an hour. When he returned to his vehicle at 3:45 p.m., the converter was gone.

Bohman said it doesn’t take long to steal the converters off Toyota models, since they are attached to the easily accessible exhaust pipe and not the hidden exhaust manifold. With a battery-powered saw, it would only take about five minutes to commit the crime. The converters can then be sold to a metal dealer or junkyard for up to $1,500.

The only preventive measure car owners can take to protect themselves is to park in as highly a populated and trafficked area as possible, said Captain Lynn Mitchell of the U Police Department. Victims of these thefts look forward to an $800 to $1,300 repair job to replace their exhaust systems, Bohman said.

This isn’t the first time converters have been stolen from campus parking lots. Mitchell said the thefts date back to the winter months of 2007. Any make or model with a raised body or exposed converter is a likely target.

The converter thefts are part of a larger occurrence of metal thefts throughout Utah, a growing trend with the increasing value of metals. In February, two men were arrested for investigation of stealing metal sheets from the Warnock Engineering Building’s construction site. During that same month, about $9,000 worth of copper was stolen from the Marriott Library’s construction site. In April, $10,000 worth of copper was stolen from the Union’s air conditioners.

Bohman said the platinum treasure chest of catalytic converters is just the latest phase of the metal theft crime world.

[email protected]