By Peyton Sheehan
News staff writer
Three UNC Asheville students’ catalytic converters were stolen from their vehicles on Oct. 12 in parking lot P2 as well as at The Verge apartments. The suspect(s) were able to remove the catalytic converters from the cars in only a matter of minutes.
Eric Boyce, UNCA’s assistant vice chancellor of public safety, said these larceny crimes are still an ongoing investigation and they were able to obtain images of one of the suspects in P1.
“The suspect(s) covered the license place up when they came and they wore things over their faces,” Boyce said. “We know that it is a darker color SUV, so we have been on the lookout for that vehicle. It looks like a Nissan Rouge based on our comparison of other vehicles.”
With the use of possibly an electric or battery operated saw, the suspect took about three minutes to remove the catalytic converter, Boyce said.
According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, in 2016, catalytic converter thefts were more common than expected. Since 2008, 25,394 catalytic converters have been stolen. The number of catalytic converters thefts are on the rise due to the three precious metals, all from the platinum family, contained in the converter, according to Specialty Metals.
Boyce said although there are three precious metals in the converter, there low enough levels of platinum in the catalytic converter that it has to be broken down in order to extract the metals.
“The catalytic converter is also called a redox reaction,” said Locklin Bray, a mechanic from Rutledge, Georgia. “It turns the toxic gases coming from the combustion of the engine into gases that oxygen can manage.”
Boyce said UNCA is actively investigating these incidents and is in contact with Asheville Police Department, Woodfin Police Department and the sheriff’s office to see if they are experiencing issues as well.
North Carolina General Assembly Article 45 states the regulation on the sales of catalytic converters. Although it is not a crime to sell them, according to the statute they must be on a car or have written consent of the seller.
To help with this investigation, students can be on the lookout, especially in the areas that students park their vehicles for prolonged periods of time. If you see someone tampering with a vehicle, take a picture, a video, report it through Rocky Shield, dial 6710 from any on-campus phone or submit an anonymous tip.