Surge in catalytic converter thefts as organised gangs strike in daylight

October 02 2020
Surge in catalytic converter thefts as organised gangs strike in daylight

ORGANISED crime gangs are behind a surge in daylight thefts of catalytic converters from cars which has shocked Avon and Somerset police's chief constable.

Andy Marsh said the number of converters, which are part of a car's exhaust system to reduce levels of pollutant gases, stolen in Avon and Somerset has shot up tenfold in the last 12 months.

Police say the high price of the metals inside make them attractive to thieves and they are relatively quick and easy to swipe, with many thefts happening in daylight.

One manufacturer has been forced to increase production of spare parts to cope with the surge in thefts.

In the year to March, 164 were stolen in Bristol, Bath and Somerset, up from 15 over the previous 12 months, and police are now carrying out targeted patrols.

The issue was raised during a phone-in on BBC Radio Bristol with Mr Marsh.

One caller said his car was "jacked up on my driveway at 8.30 in the morning and the catalytic converter was stolen" with another targeted 100 metres down the same road.

The caller added: “This is going in supermarket car parks, park and rides, people’s streets and driveways. It seems nothing is being done about it.

When I enquired how long it would take [to replace] they said there were 600 catalytic converters just for my car on back order. It could take until the new year to get one. Fortunately, it didn’t take that long.”

Converters contain valuable metals including platinum, palladium and rhodium, and are reportedly shipped to eastern Europe after they are taken, after restrictions on UK scrap dealers were tightened to cut the trade in stolen metal, with sellers now having to leave their details.

Mr Marsh said it was “shocking” for catalytic converters to be stolen in broad daylight and an organised gang was probably to blame.

Hybrid cars such as the Toyota Prius, which have more valuable catalytic converters, are particularly likely to be targeted.

A spokesperson for Toyota said: “We have worked very hard with suppliers in Japan and France and elsewhere to ensure we can meet demand, which has grown a lot as this organised crime has increased massively.”

Police have called on anyone who sees someone acting suspiciously around a vehicle to report it by calling 101. If a theft is in progress, call 999.

Drivers can help to deter thieves by:

  • Parking in a secure garage overnight or somewhere that makes it difficult for thieves to access a car's underside

  • Parking where neighbours and passers-by could see anyone tampering with the vehicle

  • Installing motion activated security lighting or CCTV

  • Marking catalytic converters with a commercially-available etching kit or fitting a ‘cat’ clamp or alarm. This can also help police trace the item and prove a theft, helping to bring offenders to justice.

By Stephen Sumner, Local Democracy Reporting Service