GVPD receives multiple reports of car-part thefts

By Arpan Lobo | 11/9/17 1:36am

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GVL / Courtesy - Jessie Carle

The Grand Valley State University Allendale Campus has been hit with a relatively unheard-of set of thefts.

Since Monday, Oct. 30, the GVSU Police Department has had eight separate reports of theft of catalytic converters, a car part that sits underneath the car. Catalytic converters are used to convert chemical pollutants produced by the car’s engine into less-harmful exhaust. 

The reports have all came from the university’s Allendale Campus. Catalytic converters contain precious metals such as platinum, palladium and rhodium, depending on the car model. 

As many of the models robbed of converters are older models, it is believed that the converters are being sold for scrap metal. GVPD believes that the people stealing the parts are using a reciprocating saw. Due to the location of the car part—underneath the car and generally toward the middle, depending on the model—GVPD believes that the thieves are using car jacks to remove the part.

Brandon DeHaan, acting director of the GVPD, encourages GVSU students and community members to remain vigilant, especially if they see anything that appears suspicious.

“We encourage students to call 911 immediately,” DeHaan said. “We want to encourage our community to be good bystanders and practice bystander intervention.”

There have been reports of the stolen car parts in the surrounding Allendale area and the greater Grand Rapids area as well. GVPD is collaborating with the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office on the investigation.

The first report of the incident came Monday, Oct. 30, but it is possible, according to GVPD, that the thefts all occurred on the same night. 

“I can’t speak with authority about this, but it is possible that they may have all happened at the same time,” DeHaan said. 

The removal of a catalytic converter is not a quick process, as any potential thief would have to get underneath the car to remove it. In 2015, the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) reported that there had been a 23-percent increase in the theft of insured catalytic converters from 2008 to 2015, as nearly 4,000 were reported stolen nationwide in 2015. Because that number does not include uninsured converters, the NICB believed the total number to be much higher.

As for GVSU’s campus, DeHaan again urges community members to do their part.

“We want everyone to be responsible for your community,” he said. 

Those affected by the thefts are left without an important part of their daily lives. Jessie Carle, GVSU senior, had her converter stolen and has been left scrambling for options. 

“I’m going to have to scrap (my car) if my insurance can’t do anything,” she said. Carle, the owner of a 2000 Honda Accord, believes her converter was stolen between Sunday, Oct. 29, and Monday, Oct. 30. Her car was parked in a lot next to Grand Valley Apartments, where a smaller number of cars are typically parked. 

“No one’s out there, ever,” she said. Carle recommended placing cameras in some of the smaller lots to prevent theft. DeHaan did not bring that idea up with the Grand Valley Lanthorn.

If a student sees any suspicious activity, they are encouraged to contact the GVPD at 616-331-3255 or the Ottawa County Silent Observer hotline at 877-88-SILENT (745368). If anyone sees a suspected theft in the act, they are encouraged to call 911. 

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