“The Weekly” Investigates: catalytic converter thefts sweep campus

Corinne StremmelEditor-in-Chief

A string of catalytic converter thefts has taken place on campus and in the local St. Peter and Mankato community. Campus Safety released a statement on April 27th announcing that they are partnering with the St. Peter Police Department in order to gather information to piece together this developing case.
“At this point, we know there have been nine thefts right on campus or close to campus, at least four or five blocks away—and three or four [thefts] randomly around town,” St. Peter Police Department Sergeant, Paul Hagen said.
Video evidence has played a major role in attempting to solve this case. At this point in the investigation, authorities are working to collect footage from surveillance cameras on campus and in the local community.
“Surveillance cameras at Gustavus saw a white Saab with a black top on campus and the St. Peter Police Department saw the same car on their camera,” Director of Campus Safety Frederick Smith said.
According to Hagen, several cars have been flagged as suspected vehicles, but as of now, there is one particular car that is still under investigation. While Campus Safety’s report on the thefts identifies a white Saab with a black top, this particular car cannot be confirmed as a suspect, according to Hagen. However, a license plate number has been identified, but cannot be released to the public at this time.
According to Detective Gerhart with the St. Peter Police, authorities have noticed that Toyota Priuses, regardless of their year, as well as Hyundai Sonatas appear to be a frequent target in these thefts.
Aside from the make and model of frequently targeted vehicles, authorities haven’t noticed a defined pattern in the thefts. “Thefts like these kind of go in streaks. A couple years ago we had several, but not necessarily in our area. As far as I know, this is the most we’ve ever had,” Hagen said.
Smith also noted that these types of thefts aren’t necessarily common occurrences on campus, but instead appear to happen randomly.
As for sophomore Samuel Peters, this string of thefts hit close to home when his own catalytic converter was stolen from his vehicle when it was parked in Lot N in front of Southwest Hall.
“I noticed the problem two weeks ago on April 21st. At 9:00 P.M., I went to my car to run to Hyvee. I got in, turned on the car and there was a roaring noise like a motorcycle. I have a Prius, so I knew it shouldn’t sound like that,” Peters said.
Peters explained that he wasn’t one hundred percent sure what the problem was, but knew that catalytic converter thefts were an issue since his aunt’s catalytic converter was recently stolen in Minneapolis.
Peters managed to get the car towed and informed both Campus Safety and the St. Peter Police Department of the theft. While the theft was partially covered by Peters’ insurance, the total repair cost was around $1400.
“There’s a high value placed on the materials that are in catalytic converters. You might get $200 for reselling the parts, but it’s going to cost the owner one to two thousand dollars to get all the repairs done to replace it,” Hagen said.
The particular materials Hagen refers to are platinum, palladium and rhodium, which react with the emissions in a catalytic converter. Each is worth about $30 a gram, and there’s between three and seven grams of these metals in catalytic converters.
Hagen also notes that tracking these thefts can be tricky due to the nature of the theft. “It’s a very quick theft. They can cut the catalytic converter in less than a minute and be done,” Hagen said.
This story is still developing, but Smith stresses that students can help authorities gather information. “If they see something, say something and they can also be vigilant,” Smith said.
Similarly, Detective Gerhart recommends keeping track of the last time you drove your vehicle, especially if it has been sitting in the parking lot for a while, and make sure to report a theft as soon as possible, so authorities can work on bringing this case to a close.

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