U Police Crack Catalytic Converter Theft Case


Jonathan Wang

The University pf Utah’s police department office in Salt Lake City, Utah on June 29, 2022. (Photo by Jonathan Wang | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Vanessa Hudson, Editor in Chief


Since the summer of 2021, the University of Utah has faced a consistent problem with catalytic converters being stolen from personal vehicles on campus. Now, the University of Utah Police Department were able to identify two suspects who admitted to being involved in several thefts on campus and arrested them in March 2022. 

A catalytic converter is on the exterior of a car and part of the exhaust system. It converts toxic gasses into exhaust gasses. Catalytic converters are easy targets for thieves because there are precious metals such as platinum, palladium and rhodium, according to AtTheU. The converters can be worth $300 to $500 and act as a quick cash grab for thieves. 

Patrol Lieutenant Ryan Speers said they noticed an increase in reports of stolen converters in early 2022, and in March, they began putting more resources into identifying the problem and potential suspects. 

“We were able to get video surveillance of a specific license plate,” Speers said. He added that while this was a breakthrough in the case, they still had to confirm the owner of the vehicle. Once they did that and located their home address, U Police began electronic surveillance of the suspect. 

Sergeant Reuban Torres, a member of the Investigation Unit, described the events of March 23. “We decided to do a full surveillance operation on him to see if he was going to come back on campus,” he said. 

They started in the morning by following the suspect and decided that if they could catch him in the act, they would stop and arrest him.

“About two hours into the surveillance, he parked near a vehicle and he was doing some shady stuff,” Torres said.

Torres said the suspect parked next to a vehicle in West Valley and disappeared behind the car. Another individual was with him. After about 15 minutes, the suspects left.

“We had detectives go and look at that vehicle. And they discovered that the catalytic converter was gone,” he said. Then the West Valley police department was called to aid the arrest. 

“We detained him,” Torres said. “We interviewed him and he admitted to stealing that catalytic converter.” 

Torres said that after further investigation, the suspect admitted to being involved in the other thefts on campus.

Speers and Torres praised the teamwork involved in cracking this case. 

“I think the best thing that came out of this was the unit working as a team as an investigative case in the interest of the campus,” Torres said. 

He added that it was a great accomplishment for the team to work together to successfully identify and arrest the suspects. 

“Our six investigators, led by Sergeant Torres, really deserve all of the credit for this because they put in the time and the effort to make this happen,” Speers said.

While this case break has been a huge success for the UUPD, their work continues. According to AtTheU, two suspects were recently arrested for peeking into car windows and carrying tools for breaking into them.

Speers and Torres both agree that as a community, being aware of our surroundings can help us protect ourselves from becoming victims of these thefts.

“Park in highly populated areas,” Speers said. 

“Take a quick look around as you get out of your vehicle and just be aware,” Torres said.   


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