Drivers are being urged to be vigilant after a huge rise in the number of catalytic converters being stolen from cars.
Police in London say the number of thefts in the first six months of 2019 was 2,894, a 73% increase on the 1,674 stolen in the whole of 2018.
In Cambridgeshire, there were 61 reported thefts between June 20 and August 14, with 44 of these from Honda Jazz, Toyota Prius or Toyota Auris cars.
The catalytic converter is part of the car’s emissions control system and its value for recycling is the main attraction to thieves because they contain precious metals such as rhodium, platinum and palladium.
The price of certain precious metals have skyrocketed in the past 18 months: palladium is now worth £1,300/oz, while rhodium goes for £4,000/oz, metals merchant FJ Church and Sons told the BBC.
Although there are 10,000 different types of converters, the cars that are most often targeted are hybrid vehicles.
Since hybrid cars have two power sources – electric and petrol or diesel – the catalytic converter is used less frequently to process pollutants.
The metals are less likely to corrode, meaning they are worth more and therefore more attractive to thieves.
Cambridgeshire Constabulary advises motorists to take the following precautions:
- Park close to fences, walls or a kerb with the exhaust being closest to the fence, wall or kerb to make theft more difficult.
- Invest in a catalytic converter lock, which can be fitted retrospectively and physically locks the converter to the vehicle, thereby preventing a quick and easy removal.
- If your catalytic converter is bolted on, consider having the bolts welded to make removal difficult.
- Mark your catalytic converter with a marking and registration system. This will not protect against theft, but will act as a deterrent and assist in returning property.
- If you park on your driveway then consider purchasing a video doorbell and/or a driveway alarm to alert you to suspicious activity.
Car manufacturers have also taken steps to protect catalytic converters from theft. Honda, for example, has fitted Accord and Jazz models from 2008 onwards with a tray under the car to make it harder for thieves to get at the catalytic converter.
In models from 2015 onwards, the catalytic converter has been placed within the engine bay, so a thief would need to disassemble the car to get at it.
Toyota has developed a Catloc device, which costs between £200 and £250 (depending on model) which makes it harder for thieves to detach the catalytic converter from the bottom of the car.
It has also reduced the prices of replacement catalytic converters and Catlocs to a level where Toyota GB does not make any profit from supplying them to customers.
Toyota’s recommended prices for a bundle that includes a new catalyst and a Catloc are £950 for Auris Hybrid, £1,000 for Prius Gen 2 and £1,050 for Prius Gen 3.
Its website adds: “We are urgently exploring new technical possibilities to deter criminals as well.”