10 school lunch sites closed due to catalytic converter theft

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SALT LAKE CITY - Thieves stole dozens of catalytic converters from Salt Lake City School District vehicles over the weekend.

10 school lunch sites closed due to catalytic converter theft

The theft affected thousands of students Monday, as the district was forced to shut down 10 summer school lunch programs.

The number of stolen catalytic converters has gone up from when KSL News first reported the thefts at noon. Police now say a total of 29 catalytic converters were stolen from 19 vehicles.

District officials believe the thefts happened sometime between 4 p.m. Friday -- when the offices closed -- and 6 a.m. Monday -- when delivery drivers discovered the missing parts.

Whoever stole the catalytic converters jumped a barbed wire fence to get to the vehicles. Signs posted along the fence say the parking lot is under 24-hour video surveillance. The district now is reviewing the video hoping to identify the thieves.

Police say the parts contain some precious metals; the most valuable is platinum. Ten catalytic converters can contain about 3 grams of platinum -- an amount that can sell for $1,500.

"Platinum, as you know, is a very expensive metal. It's actually worth $400 more per ounce than gold right now," said Officer Gary Keller, spokesman for the South Salt Lake City Police Department.

The thieves could also get $40 to $50 for each catalytic converter from a salvage yard. Detectives plan to contact all local salvage yards to warn workers to be on the lookout for the stolen parts.

We have thousands of low-income families that rely on that [lunch] program, and that's what's hit biggest today.

–Jason Olsen, SLC School District spokesman

Police say the catalytic converters were cut from the vehicles with some sort of high-power saw. Eight of the larger box trucks had two cut from each truck.

According to the district, the trucks are used to deliver lunches for the summer school lunch program, among other things. While the trucks are waiting to be repaired, the district has been forced to shut down the program at 10 of its locations.

District spokesman Jason Olsen said, "It's a major inconvenience, and the big hit is the summer lunch program. We have thousands of low-income families that rely on that program, and that's what's hit biggest today."

The district says parts for all the trucks are being shipped overnight and the vehicles should be repaired by Tuesday.

"It is a large cost to the district because we have to get all of these trucks repaired," Olsen said. He estimates it will cost $300 to $400 to replace each catalytic converter.

The school lunch program should be back on track for Tuesday. A list of locations is available here.


Story compiled with contributions from Sandra Yi, Shara Park and Mary Richards.

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