Uptick in catalytic converter thefts at UW-Stout

Students at UW-Stout say their hybrid vehicles are being targeted for thefts. The campus police department also reports an uptick in catalytic converter thefts.
Published: Feb. 9, 2021 at 5:56 PM CST
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MENOMONIE, Wis. (WEAU) -Two weeks ago today, a UW-Stout student had their catalytic converters stolen out from underneath their vehicle, just steps away from the student’s dorm.

The sophomore at UW-Stout in Menomonie wishes to remain anonymous as the investigation is ongoing.

“The following day when I went to get my car, it sounded like a lawn-mower going off, apparently somebody took a power saw to pretty much the bottom of the engine,” says the student.

The victim drives a 2008 hybrid Prius, containing not one but two catalytic converters.

“This is just inexcusable to beyond belief in my opinion and here I’m stuck with an $1800 repair bill,” says the frustrated student.

Campus police officers are currently investigating two reports leaving students’ cars without its critical emissions component.

UW-Stout police chief Jason Spetz say both theft cases involve hybrid vehicles.

“Generally speaking it would be the vehicles that are easily accessible; they take these things off in under two minutes literally,” Spetz says.

Chief Spetz says this crime isn’t new to the community, however, theft cases involving catalytic converters are rising.

Bob Adams, owner of Adams Automotive Center in Eau Claire says his shop has seen at least six cars in recent months, with the same issue, its exhaust system gutted.

“Especially some of the hybrids that are easy to get at, they’re clean, they don’t get as dirty and they’re easy to get out so they bring a much higher value,” says Adams.

Depending on the make and the model of the vehicle, the replacement of this car part can run up to $1,000, a steep price for most college students.

“Especially in our community where students are strapped for cash anyhow and they’re paying for tuition, and room and board and everything else this is not something they need on top of that,” Spetz says.

Officer Spetz asks people to be good witnesses, capturing license plates and to report any suspicious activity.

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