The Missouri State University Bear Line shuttle buses recently joined the growing list of vehicles in the Springfield area that have had their catalytic converters stolen.
The buses were vandalized as they sat overnight in the bus barn located on Fisk Limousine’s property. Fisk contracts the buses out to MSU, who rents them on behalf of the students, and MSU funds them through student service fees.
Cole Pruitt, manager of Transportation Services at MSU, said the stolen converters caused no disturbance to the transportation of students, schedule of the Bear Line or impacted the university.
“Fisk Limousines was able to pull shuttles from their existing fleet to cover all our Bear Line shuttle routes,” Pruitt said.
While MSU walked away relatively unscathed from the theft, that’s not true for other victims.
According to an article by the Springfield News-Leader, in just the last few months, there have been more than 80 reported victims in the Springfield community that have had the catalytic converter cut out from their vehicle.
A catalytic converter is a device attached to the muffler Its function is to reduce the toxic fuel emissions and pollutants released into the air. They’re relatively easy to remove with the proper tools, according to Nika Megino in her article for Patch.com.
They’re sought after because they’re composed of precious metals, one of which is palladium. According to an article by Eddie van der Walt and Ranjeetha Pakiam in their article for The Washington Post, palladium has become the most valuable metal used in catalytic converters and is more expensive than gold. It can cost more than $1,000 to replace a catalytic converter, according to an article by the Springfield News-Leader.
The thieves sell the converters for scrap metal or resell them on the internet to victims of catalytic converter theft who are searching to replace theirs.
Andrew Englert, associate director for University Safety, says the Springfield Police Department, along with University Safety, has been working to address the thefts and prevent them.
According to Englert, there have been increased patrols of parking lots and increased communication with individuals who “look out of place” on campus.
Englert said students can help prevent the thefts by reporting individuals who are carrying around tools and listening for odd sounds coming from vehicles in parking lots.
“It is a very loud process to remove the catalytic converter,” Englert said. “Essentially, they have some type of cutting tool. It’s something that is making a high-pitched, loud noise of cutting metal.”
Englert suggested students park in well-lit areas on campus, adding the university has put in more effort to improve lighting.
Englert said for those students who are highly concerned about the theft of their catalytic converter, they can have identifying markers etched onto the converter. Many body shops are now required by law to ask for identification before buying a used converter.
The most identifiable way of knowing a catalytic converter is missing from one’s car is if it sounds different and louder than normal.
“I was dining downtown with my daughters and I saw a Prius go by that was very loud,” Englert said. “It took me a second, but then I was like, ‘catalytic converter theft.’”
Englert, who has been at University Safety for five years, says there have been three reported cases of catalytic converter theft on campus since he’s been there. Two happened just before winter break.
The vehicles vandalized were two Toyota Priuses and a university van. The thefts happened in lots 22, 29 and 44, respectively.
Englert said the vehicles most commonly being sought after are Toyota Priuses and larger, heavy-duty vehicles.