LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Thieves are continuing to target catalytic converters as police, lawmakers, and even colleges consider how to combat them.
"It sounded like a coal truck going down a hill," said Marvin Baker about the sound of his granddaughter's car after the catalytic converter was stolen. She is one of at least 26 people who have reported a catalytic converter being stolen on the University of Kentucky campus.
Baker filed a report with the University of Kentucky Police on November 7. The car was located in the Kroger Field Red Lot.
"Somebody had the nerve to go into a lot of this size and this magnitude with the security they say they've got and steal a converter off my granddaughter's car. The nerve!" said Baker.
The thefts have taken place mainly in surface lots and nearby streets. Students and staff have to pay for parking permits, which for the Red Lot goes for $272 annually.
"Students come here with the expectation of getting a good education. They also have the expectation of feeling safe while they're here. I don't know how safe or unsafe they are," said Baker.
UK Spokesperson Jay Blanton told LEX 18 they could not address the specifics of that case but said, "Our response has been to try to raise awareness around this issue and educate our community. For example, we charged someone earlier this year with theft and put out a news release about it to raise greater awareness. We take this issue very seriously and are working to address it."
He added that, over the last several years, UK invested more than $15 million in security and safety measures, which included increased cameras, patrol, lighting and officers.
They are working to combat what is a nationwide issue of alarming rates of converter thefts. Police shared that catalytic converter theft cases increased by 234% in Kentucky from 2020 to 2021.
A technical service manager, Jacob Banks, told us a replacement could cost anywhere from $800 to $4,000 and could also take time for parts to be delivered and labor.
"It's kinda one of those things where it's kinda hard to prevent it due to the fact that the people actually have to get under the car to actually steal them," said Banks. "I always recommend people getting a dashcam in their car — that way they can at least see who has been around their car."
At least for now, as police departments and lawmakers try to figure out how to stop the alarming trend, there's no way to guarantee it won't happen again.
If you notice something or someone acting suspiciously in UK parking lots or garages, please call UKPD and provide as much detail as possible.