The theft of a valuable auto part from a university vehicle that sat largely idle during the pandemic has WSU police urging departments to check their fleets for damage.

The entire catalytic converter system, complete with oxygen sensors, was cut off of a 2016 Ford F-250 with what appears to have been a hacksaw or a power saw. Repairs are estimated to cost around $1,200. A second nearby truck also had one of its exhaust pipes cut, though the damage was much more minimal, Officer Joseph Kirshner of the WSU Police Department said.

Catalytic converters help to reduce vehicle emissions and come equipped with small amount of precious metals that are increasingly valuable. It’s the first such incident of its kind for Kirshner, who joined the department in 1999.

“We’re hoping to get the word out to departments that may leave trucks unattended or haven’t been using them as much in the last year to look and see if anything is cut or missing.” he said.

The damage was discovered when a field researcher reported an issue with the Ford F-250 to Motor Pool, who discovered four cut pipes beneath it.

Anyone who finds damage to a state or federally licensed vehicle is asked to call 509-592-6559. The active case number is 21-W1072. Any suspicious activity involving university vehicles should be reported to the police, Kirshner said.