Champaign County, campus experience increase in car, catalytic converter thefts

Parking+lots+on+campus+deal+with+catalytic+converter+thefts+such+as+lots+F-23+and+F-22.+In+additional+to+cars+being+stolen+around+the+community.

Cameron Krasucki

Parking lots on campus deal with catalytic converter thefts such as lots F-23 and F-22. In additional to cars being stolen around the community.

By Jenni Kallenback, Assistant Features Editor

On Saturday, Jan. 29 at 11:30 a.m., Amelia Thornton, freshman in LAS, was heading to her vehicle. When she started the engine, she was met with a loud, odd noise.

“(It was) like you hear a motorcycle driving by or something,” Thornton said. “I’d honestly say it was probably louder than that.”

But she knew was the noise meant. Because she had heard about the recent catalytic converter thefts on campus, she knew hers had been stolen.

Between Jan. 1 and Feb. 9, there were 20 reports of vehicle-related thefts in the campus area according to the Daily Clery Crime Log. The bulk of these crimes were stolen catalytic converters, which often occur in secluded University parking lots.

The theft Thornton experienced happened sometime between Jan. 27 and Jan. 29 while her car was parked in lot F-23 on the corner of Florida and Lincoln avenues near FAR. Most of the thefts have occurred in lots F-22, F-23 and other University parking lots.

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    Thornton estimates that the cost to replace her vehicle’s catalytic converter and oxygen sensors will be about $500; she will have to pay that out of pocket.

    There have been numerous posts to the UIUC subreddit about people having their catalytic converters stolen. The most recent post was on Feb. 2.

    Patrick Wade, University Police Department communications director, said UIPD is concentrating patrols in the parking lots where the thefts commonly occur.

    “The thing we would ask of our campus community is that you can really help us out by, if you see suspicious activity, let us know about it because then we’re gonna be more likely to be able to respond to that,” Wade said. “With the catalytic converter thefts, that requires someone to jack up a car and actually get under the car and work on it.”

    UIPD posted a news release on Jan. 31 with images of suspects and a suspect vehicle. 

    However, the incidents are not just on campus. Thefts have been occurring all over Champaign County and are also part of a rising national trend. 

    For campus community members who have to park their cars outside, Wade recommends parking near a street light or in an area with a lot of people or traffic.

    There have also been reports of motor vehicle thefts and one carjacking in the campus area. On Feb. 1, there was an armed carjacking on Second and Chalmers streets. All four suspects have since been arrested. This type of crime is unusual for the area, but the motor vehicle thefts have been happening over the past year, Wade said.

    On Jan. 25, UIPD sent out a Campus Safety Notice stating that three vehicles had been stolen in the past two days. Two were stolen on Green Street, and one on Sixth Street.

    UIPD is focusing patrols in the Green Street area, Wade said.

    Because Green Street is not University property, these crimes have been under the jurisdiction of the Champaign Police Department.

    The Champaign Police Department said in an email that they are typically crimes of opportunity and that many motor vehicle thefts occur when cars are left unlocked with the engine running or the keys inside.

    People should call 911 as soon as possible if they experience any vehicle-related theft, even if the crime is not noticed right away, Wade said. The non-emergency number for UIPD is 217-333-1216.

    As some of the thefts are still under investigation, the Champaign Police Department urges anyone with information to contact them at 217-351-4545. Information can be reported anonymously to Crime Stoppers by phone at 217-373-TIPS (8477); at 373tips.com; or through the “P3 Tips” mobile app.

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