Late last Saturday night, thieves crawled under the vehicles of two students and used saws to remove the catalytic converters from their exhaust systems.
Similar crimes have been committed throughout Crawford and Erie Counties over the past year, but this is these are the first of such incidents at Allegheny.
When Chris Bonessi, ’11, turned on his Nissan Frontier pickup truck to drive home Easter morning, he discovered a gap in his exhaust pipe.
“By the time I got home, I had a two-hour headache from how loud the noise was,” he said. “I was surprised but more so angry because the catalytic converter is the most expensive part of the exhaust system.”
The replacement parts alone will cost him upwards of $300.
Director of Safety and Security Jeff Schneider said that this criminal activity might be part of a ring of thefts affecting the area.
“It’s been ongoing in various jurisdictions and states for at least a year now,” he said. “In fact, Erie County has experienced a rash of them for a year now locally.”
According to Schneider, state police have been investigating the thefts but still have no leads.
“These thieves are experienced,” he said. “They’re good at what they do, and it only takes them a couple minutes to commit the theft.”
The process involves using an electric saw to cut the exhaust pipe on either side of the catalytic converter.
Schneider said that vehicles with a higher wheelbase are more susceptible to theft.
“They have to crawl underneath, so if you have a small compact, you’re safe,” he said.
According to an April 26 USA Today article, the rising prices of platinum, rhodium and palladium – metals found in catalytic converters – have made the theft more lucrative and popular.
“It’s easy money for some who don’t want to honestly come by their money,” Schneider said. “The scrap yards are where these things are going and they could be held accountable for theft of stolen property.”
Automotive scrap yards are required by law to have a verification process when purchasing parts to ensure they were not acquired by theft, said Barb Ridgeway from the Meadville Metal Co.
“We have paperwork that every person must sign that says they are the owner of the particular part and that it is not stolen property,” she said. “They must provide their photo ID in order to get the check for the part, so every part that we get is linked to an identified person.”