The number of thefts of catalytic converters from vehicles is rising due to a global rise in precious metal prices and a crackdown on other forms of metal theft, according to the British Transport Police (BTP).
Thefts of catalytic converters, fitted to vehicles to reduce poisonous gases from exhaust systems, can leave victims stranded for several days.
Victims also face expensive replacement bills, with knock-on adverse effects to businesses, according to detective superintendent Alison Evans (pictured below), national co-ordinator for the National Metal Theft Task Force.
Evans told MRW that a 44% reduction in thefts of other types of metal objects such as cables between 2011/12 and 2012/13, has led to a “new wave of energies” directed towards this more vulnerable crime area.
She said that easy access to the underside of vans means they are more at risk than cars and the police are working with the haulage industry on the issue.
Although Evans said that the number of thefts was still relatively small, the high prices of precious metals, including platinum and palladium, are appealing. The latest MRW spot platinum price, for example, is £872 per ounce.
She added: “We believe organised crime groups are responsible for the majority of catalytic converter thefts that we see, as they target depots and multi-vehicle locations using specialist tools - very few are opportunistic thefts.”
A BBC investigation found that nearly 25,000 thefts were reported to police forces across the UK between 2010 and the first half of this year. It also found that there was a tenfold rise in thefts in Bedfordshire and South Yorkshire as well as a threefold increase in Cheshire, Greater Manchester and Leicestershire.
Nationally, around 8,600 thefts have been reported to police forces across the UK so far in 2013, according to BTP.
Evans said: “We are building a highly accurate intelligence picture to find those responsible and bring them to justice, while highlighting the issue to the industry and car owners.
The Scrap Metal Dealers Act came into force in October with the aim of combatting metal theft by obliging dealers to have a licence and to obtain identification details of customers.
Ian Hetherington, director general of the British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA), said: “The BMRA hopes that the rigorous enforcement of the Scrap Metal Dealers’ Act from December will actively discourage thieves from this harmful activity. Police will, for the first time, be able to act against anyone handling catalytic converters without a licence.”
- Last week nine catalytic converters were stolen in one night in Huddersfield during a spate of thefts. Each item costs £1,000 to replace, but might only fetch £100 in a scrap yard, the Huddersfield Daily Examiner reported.