Catalytic converter thefts on campus

Cars on YSU’s campus get targeted for precious metals by thieves.

By Sydney Stalnecker

Two people have reported their catalytic converter stolen from their vehicle on Youngstown State University’s campus in February. Four cases were reported between October 2021 and February 2022.

YSU police Chief Shawn Varso said these thefts have been on the rise in many locations.

“We’re not the only ones who are basically getting hit with catalytic converter thefts,” Varso said. “There is a rash of catalytic converter thefts in the area: Austintown, Liberty, Youngstown. They’ve all experienced an increase in thefts of catalytic converters.”

According to J. D. Power’s website, catalytic converters are a part of the “exhaust system designed to reduce emissions” and they cost an average of $800 to $1200.

This car part has become popular among thieves because it contains many expensive precious metals.

“What the individuals are looking for is the precious metals that are inside the catalytic converters,” Varso said. “The catalytic converters may contain amounts of palladium, platinum and rhodium.”

Foreign cars are typically targeted for their precious metals, but some American cars have expensive catalytic converters too, such as the Ford F150.

According to the police reports, the four cars affected were Honda CR-V’s ranging from the year 2004 to 2008. 

“Most [of] the vehicles that are hit for catalytic converters are foreign cars. The foreign cars usually have larger amounts of the precious metals in them,” Varso said. “Sometimes older vehicles will have a lot more precious metals in them.”

Reports regarding attempted catalytic converter thefts have been made to YSUPD as well. However, in some cases, the thief has taken a different car part if the catalytic converter is unattainable.

James Desharnais, a sophomore mechanical engineering major, said someone attempted to steal his catalytic converter during the February snowstorm, but couldn’t manage it. They took his muffler instead.

“I was parked on Pennsylvania Avenue, and we’ve actually had a couple instances with people stealing or trying to steal catalytic converters up there by Wick Park,” he said.

The crimes targeted 2004-08 Honda CR-V’s.

He lives in a fraternity house on Pennsylvania Avenue, which is outside the reach of YSUPD. Therefore, Desharnais and anyone who lives in the Youngstown area would report an incident to the Youngstown Police Department downtown.

“One of the other brothers who did have their catalytic converter stolen had to get a completely new car for cheaper than it would’ve been to replace the [catalytic converter],” Desharnais said.

Varso said anyone who is a victim of catalytic converter theft should report it to the proper authorities immediately.

“My suggestion is — if it did happen — that they contact YPD immediately and have a report filed,” Varso said. “It helps when we do eventually catch the individual because the more charges you can add on, the more thefts that were made, it makes it a better case.”

The reported cases occurred at the R92 Lot by Lyden House, the M24 Lot by the Lower Courtyards, the R23 Lot by the Upper Courtyards and the M30 Parking Deck on Wick Avenue.

There are cameras around these campus lots, which have been used to identify the two possible suspects who have no affiliation with YSU.

“Right now, we actually have two suspects that we are actively seeking,” Varso said. “There are charges filed, they just haven’t been apprehended yet.”

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