Thefts of car parts on Western’s doorstep

By Dave Hon

October 25, 2011

Missouri Western hasn’t been hit by a recent rash of car thefts, but the theft of catalytic converters is right on its doorstep. Last week, the St. Joseph Police Department received 15 reports concerning the theft of catalytic converters. Capt. Kevin Castle said that the thefts are mostly targeted toward GM and Pontiac vehicles. “Usually they’re hitting multiple cars in one lot,” Castle said. “Like high school lots, Heartland’s lots. Lots with large numbers of cars on them.” A release sent out by Missouri Western Public Relations stated that both Heartland Health and American Family have reported thefts of catalytic converters on their campuses. Kim Penland, operations services tech for American Family, said she realized that her converter was missing when she left for work one afternoon. “When I turned the car on it was very noticeable,” Penland said. Penland said that a woman two rows in front of her had her converter stolen also. “It’s very aggravating, and no one likes a thief,” Penland said. “It’s upsetting, and it’s expensive. I feel sorry for the girl in front of me because hers was going to be higher.” Penland said that the cost to replace the converter on her 2005 Chevy van was roughly $100. Ken Lehna, assistant service manager at Randy Reed, said that these parts sometimes cost $300 to $900, including labor. A catalytic converter filters harmful carbons out of a vehicle’s exhaust to prevent pollution. Since it ties directly into the exhaust system, cutting the converter out disconnects the engine exhaust system from the muffler, causing a louder exhaust. “It’s been happening when I was working in Kansas City about a year-year and a half ago,” Lehna said, “There’s just money to be made.” This isn’t the first time SJPD has seen an increase in these types of crimes. “It’s not uncommon to see these,” Castle said. “You’ll see little spikes in them, especially when you see increases in prices go up.” As far as prevention, there is no way to secure a car’s converter, especially since most of these crimes are committed with saws. Castle encouraged people to take notice of anyone tampering with a vehicle in a parking lot. He said that people have reported seeing others tampering with vehicles after the victim reported the theft. “Try and park your car in a place where there will be a high pedestrian count,” Castle said. “It doesn’t take them a long time, it can be done in under a minute, but it’s going to make some noise and someone has to be laying under your car to do it.”