KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A rash of recent thefts of catalytic converters from vehicles on campus is prompting the University of Tennessee Police Department to offer tips so the community can avoid becoming a victim.
The thefts have occurred over the last month, according to UTPD.
They mirror an ongoing series of thefts in numerous East Tennessee communities, including Oak Ridge and Knoxville. Individuals, businesses and non-profits have all been hit.
In 2020, for example, the Knoxville Police Department got 79 reports of catalytic converter thefts. In 2021, the number rose to 379, according to KPD spokesman Scott Erland.
Thieves can sell valuable metal such as platinum inside the converters, getting thousands of dollars in return.
According to UTPD, Hondas and Toyotas have been targeted in particular since January.
"Many of these thefts have occurred in surface parking lots," UTPD said Friday in a release.
Toyota Priuses, Honda vans and pickup trucks, in particular, have been targeted.
Through the end of February this year, according to Erland, there were 31 reports of converter thefts in the city. That's the most current information available.
In 2021, apartment complexes were a prime spot thieves focused on to get converters, according to KPD data. Figures show 66 of the year's thefts occurred in that multi-family residential setting.
Dealerships and maintenance shops were among the next most vulnerable spots.
SUVs are the most frequently sought last year.
Honda Elements were the top cars targeted in 2021 in the city, followed by Chevy Express vans and the Prius.
Vehicles that sit up higher can be more vulnerable because thieves have an easier time sliding under them to loosen the converter.
UT police say the campus community can take steps to help discourage or curtail thefts including parking in well-lit lots or spaces; parking close to building entrances or near roadways where your vehicle can be easily seen; using a parking garage, and keeping a closer eye on your vehicle when it's parked.
As always, if you see something suspicious, call the police. At UT, you can call 865-974-3114.