On Thursday evening, an email from the Office of the Dean Students informed the Fairfield community that thieves had victimized the campus, stealing four catalytic converters from cars on the night of January 25th and/or the early morning of the 26th. The Rearview sat down with John DeAngelis, the associate vice president of public safety, and Lieutenant Robert Didato, the assistant director, to find out more about the recent thefts on campus, as well as measures community members can take to prevent future theft.

Of the four vehicles affected, “two were university vehicles, while the other two were private cars,” said DeAngelis. “They pull up alongside unmonitored cars and use battery-operated handsaws to quickly cut out the converter.”

In general, catalytic-converter thieves tend to target vehicles with higher suspension and clearance because of the relative ease of accessing the device. SUVs and university vehicles like those targeted are commonly affected.

Catalytic converters are devices installed on vehicles to reduce emissions from engine exhaust. The devices use precious metals like platinum, palladium and rhodium to convert harmful pollutants into less-toxic compounds. It is the high value of these metals that make catalytic converters frequent targets for enterprising thieves seeking to illegally sell the components to chop shops.

Criminal and environmental implications of these thefts (catalytic converters are vital to limiting the dispersal of pollutants into the atmosphere), have prompted a concerted effort in the tri-state area to crack down on these thieves with harsher penalties. Unfortunately, thieves often simply travel beyond the area to sell them.

One of the primary challenges to stopping the theft of catalytic converters is the speed with which the crime occurs. “The thief will usually remove it and move on in under two minutes,” said Didato. As a result, there is a fairly limited window for a passerby to notice and identify a thief.

While these sorts of thefts do occasionally occur on campus, it is important to note that the university is not being singled out for this crime. As of late, thieves of catalytic converters have struck in the town of Fairfield, Milford and indeed much of the I-95 corridor.

The Department of Public Safety is working to use all of its resources to curb thefts, including patrols, cameras and the locking of most university gates at night. There were no additional thefts reported over the past day.

However, students can also do their part to reduce their risk of being victimized. These steps include parking in well-lit, high-traffic areas to deter thieves, as well as being vigilant of suspicious activities around parked cars.

However, students are strongly discouraged from confronting thieves directly due to the risk of personal harm. Instead, immediately call DPS at (203) 254-4090 and provide them with as much of a description as possible, including license plate numbers and vehicle makes.

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