By Jambar Contributor
Every semester, Youngstown State University students and staff pay for campus parking passes. However, paying that fee has not protected some members of the campus community from theft of catalytic converters from vehicles while parked on campus.
The catalytic converter is part of a car’s exhaust emission control device.
“When criminals steal the converters they are looking to recover the little amount of platinum [which] is located inside of the catalytic convertor,” YSU chief of police Shawn Varso said.
Beth Starcher, early childhood education senior, went to her car at the end of the first day of classes to find her catalytic converter missing from beneath her car.
Manufacturing engineering sophomore Brent Kidwell also was the victim of a theft around the same time.
“My car was parked and untampered with Fri. Sept. 15 around 4 p.m.,” Kidwell. “I went to go volunteer Sat. Sept. 16 at noon when I discovered the converter had been stolen.”
He said he did contact YSU Police and had a police report taken by the officer.
“He informed me that I was one of about 10 cars that had been hit in the week or two prior to that Saturday,” Kidwell said.
The YSU Police told Kidwell they were trying to watch cameras to find suspects and had undercover officers in the lots as well.
“I haven’t heard of any other [catalytic converters] being stolen, nor have I heard that they caught the individuals,” Kidwell said.
Another victim, forensic science professor Rob Wardle, said he parked his car in the F55 lot on Sept. 5 at 3 p.m. and returned at 6 p.m. The booth of the lot was unattended and the gate was open.
“I returned back to my vehicle at around 6:15 p.m.,” Wardle said. “When I started my car it was extremely loud and upon inspection I determined that my catalytic converter had been sawed off.”
Starcher compared her car to sounding like a stock car. She said she contacted parking services immediately.
“[Parking Services] said they don’t do anything dealing with mechanic work and I needed it out of the lot before 11 a.m. or else it was getting towed,” Starcher said.
Starcher said her father then came to look at her vehicle and he realized her catalytic converter was missing. She said they then called the YSU Police Department.
“They said they would be there as soon as possible and it took almost 20 minutes for them to arrive,” Starcher said.
Wardle said he has filed a formal grievance against YSU. The faculty contract requires the university to have card activated restricted lots for faculty members.
“I would not consider an unattended lot with an open gate restricted,” Wardle said.
Starcher said she wrote a letter to parking services and to YSU president Jim Tressel, about what was going on in the parking lots but has yet to hear back from either.
“Now I have the fear of every time I walk to my car somebody is underneath [my car] or doing something to it,” Starcher said.
Varso said other locations in Mahoning and Trumbull counties have also experienced theft and there is an active investigation with many other law enforcement agencies.
“YSU Police Department along with YSU Parking Services actively patrols the surface parking lots as well as parking decks,” Varso said. “We do rely on students, faculty and staff for help.”
If people notice any unusual activity, they should contact YSUPD immediately at (330) 941-3527.