Since the start of the semester, a number of car catalytic converters as well as bicycle parts have been stolen on campus.
It’s no secret that bicycle theft has always been a rife on the Kenyon campus. Last December, however, bicycle thefts increased dramatically due to the emergence of economic problems caused by the pandemic. Bike Barn director Sejin Kim ’22 believes the pandemic has caused a shortage in the supply chain, causing the prices of previously cheap bike parts to skyrocket. Kim says that, for bike thieves, these parts can translate into easy profits.
“The collapse of the supply chain meant that parts that would have cost 3 [or] $ 4 now costs $ 10-15 which for us in the Bike Barn makes things really tough [to replace parts]Kim said.
According to campus security director Michael Sweazey, reports of bicycle theft have declined significantly since last semester. He attributes this to the combined efforts of campus security officers, the Knox County Sheriff’s Office and the Mount Vernon Police Department, who issued an arrest warrant against one Joseph Fulton, a bicycle theft suspect. . Sweazey believes the warrant will help deter other potential bike thieves.
But Kenyon has recently been hit by a new wave of thefts: Several students have reported that their cars have been stripped of their catalytic converters, the exhaust emission control devices that convert gas emissions into less harmful substances. This conversion process relies on several precious metals like platinum, palladium and rhodium, which can be scrapped for profit.
The theft of converters worried parents. Some have taken to the Facebook forums to voice their complaints about the situation.
“I’m surprised they don’t have a security camera in this parking lot because it’s so far away,” a parent wrote. “[My son] came to school with a perfectly working car… he went to take it out to run errands, and it was just making a terrible noise. I got this text from him: ‘I called the place, and that was exactly the problem: my catalytic converter was stolen, and there is damage where the bottom of the car is. was cut to access it. ‘”
According to data analytics company JD Power, an average catalytic converter can sell for between $ 800 and $ 1,200, depending on the make and model of the vehicle.
“This is another case of a pandemic causing a significant increase in the value of materials, in this case rare metals,” Sweazey said. “The extremely high prices of metals in converters are the cause of theft. “
Kyle Boozer ’25 had his catalytic converter stolen just days after arriving on campus. Boozer found Kenyon’s failure to deal effectively with the situation to be even more troubling than the theft itself.
“I was very upset that this happened on campus when I was given a [parking] space. I paid a lot of money for it, ”said Boozer. “The repairs are going to have to come out of my insurance and my pocket because Kenyon can’t cover them.”
Campus Safety informed him of the theft, recommending that he file a police report. Boozer’s next steps are to figure out how to get his car repaired, although that also turns out to be a frustrating task since he has no transportation.
“Driving without a catalytic converter is actually illegal, and one of the downsides is that since it’s connected to the exhaust, instead of moving all the bad fumes out, it will move under your car, which can get in and cause carbon monoxide poisoning, ”Boozer said.
He says Kenyon offered little help responding to his vehicle’s converter theft.
“I just felt like the only thing they could really get me was a ride to the parking lot,” Boozer said.
Sweazey says Campus Safety is aggressively patrolling parking lots in hopes of preventing more thefts. In addition, Members of the Knox County Sheriff’s Office have also increased their patrols in the area and are currently opening investigations into local organized theft rings.
“I encourage students to contact Campus Safety if they observe any suspicious person or activity on campus. Without putting themselves in danger, they should call campus security or immediately report activity through the RAVE Guardian app, ”Sweazey said. “Try to include a description of the person, where / what the person is doing, as well as the description and registration label of all vehicles. (A partial plate number can also be helpful.) ”
Still, Boozer believes there could have been more effort on Campus Safety’s part to help students who have been affected by this series of thefts.
“They claim they have good security going around, but the fact that it could have happened yet somehow shows that the security could be better,” Boozer said.