A video recorded on a school security system around 1:15 p.m. Thursday afternoon, revealed an unknown suspect tampering with student vehicles parked on the 75th St. side of the senior lot. After about four minutes, the large white vehicle sped off with two catalytic converters, causing damage and expenses for the two student vehicles that were affected by the theft.
According to auto technology teacher Brian Gay, catalytic converters are emissions control devices in a vehicle’s exhaust system. The converter helps modify nitrous oxides, harmful to the environment, into less damaging gases. It cleans up cars’ exhaust emissions. While a car will still drive without one, the car cannot operate as effectively without it.
“Your car will still drive without one, but it is supposed to have one, and wants to have one, so the engine and computer is looking for it to be there,” Gay said. “If somebody removes one from your car, the exhaust system has just been cut in half, so it will be really loud and obvious like, ‘oh my gosh I thought my car blew up,’ loud.”
Catalytic converters are targeted by thieves for their scrap metal value, and composition of precious metals, according to both School Resource Officer David Parker and Gay. Metals such as platinum are used in the process of converting the gases, and can be sold for a profit as scrap metal, selling for amounts anywhere from 50 to over a hundred dollars. Getting a converter replaced can be well over that sum, anywhere from a couple hundred to a thousand dollars, depending on the size, and specific vehicle.
Officer Parker says there have been five of these thefts reported in the Prairie Village area, and a Prairie Village Police Department (PVPD) investigator has been assigned to pursue the case, although no major leads have been made on the thief that targeted East.
“We have video of [the theft] but unfortunately you can’t really see anybody,” Officer Parker said. “All you can see is a large white car pull up for four minutes and then they take off. They had it down to a science.”
The two students affected by the theft, senior Adam Jenkins, who filed the official police report, and sophomore Sam Engelken are now both having to deal with the expenses and damage left by the thief, which according to Engelken, was told it would be around 500 dollars for his Pontiac Sunfire.
“I got out there to start the car, and it was really really loud, it made a loud roaring noise, I thought maybe the muffler had fallen off or something,” Engelken said. “Then I looked over at Adam [Jenkins] and he was having the same problem. He got under his car, and stuff was just falling out of the bottom because [the thief had] cut something out. So then I just walked home.”
Officer Parker calls the theft a “crime of opportunity,” and says that in light of the event, patrolling of the parking lots will be increased, and video surveillance will be more scrutinized. The video of the initial theft has already been sent to other local departments, in the hopes of making more people aware, and to help stop these crimes in the future.