Police forces have recovered more than 1,000 stolen catalytic converters and arrested more than 50 people.
The joint operation to tackle catalytic converter theft, codenamed Goldiron, was coordinated by the British Transport Police (BTP).
Police forces joined experts from the Joint Unit for Waste Crime (JUWC), led by the Environment Agency, Smartwater Group, and motor industry, to carry out synchronised enforcement action, intelligence-led site visits, forensic marking and educational events.
Over a five-day period last month, officers and partner agencies made 56 arrests, visited 926 sites, stopped 664 vehicles, recovered 1,037 stolen catalytic converters and 297 items of stolen property; and identified 244 offences.
During the visits and checks, officers searched for stolen metal and examined trader’s financial records to ensure they were complying with the 2013 Scrap Metal Dealers Act.
The JUWC also coordinated a series of waste site inspections to ensure businesses held environmental permits and met other legal requirements.
Furthermore, catalytic converter marking demonstrations were also held to educate and encourage drivers to protect their vehicles. More than 1,610 vehicles were forensically marked by officers and partner agencies.
National Police Chiefs' Council lead for metal crime, BTP Assistant Chief Constable Charlie Doyle, said that the “positive results” are testament to why it’s vital to share information and specialist knowledge to disrupt those operating in this area of crime.
“By taking a multi-agency approach, we are maximising our ability to identify those who are involved in catalytic converter theft, making it harder for them to sell stolen metal and gain from their criminal activities,” he added.
Catalytic converters clean harmful gases before they exit a vehicle's exhaust pipe and are stolen for the precious metal they contain. These metals have surged in value recently, leading to organised crime networks to commit more offences.
A national conference took place in November last year to create a cross-agency plan focussed on prevention and detection and this was the second week of action that has taken place since.
National Police Chiefs' Council lead for vehicle crime, Cheshire Police Assistant Chief Constable Jenny Simms, said: “Policing and law enforcement agencies will continue to focus on catalytic converter theft and ensure that this low risk/ high-reward crime is relentlessly targeted, and offenders are brought to justice.”
The RAC and Ageas say that vehicles parked during lockdown are being targeted by criminals stealing catalytic converters for their precious metals.
There has been a “marked rise” in the theft of catalytic converters since the start of the first lockdown just over a year ago, says Ageas Insurance.
Three-in-10 of all theft claims reported are now related to catalytic converters. Before the lockdown catalytic converter theft only accounted for around one-in-five.
Toyota is working with police and Smartwater to covertly mark the catalytic converters on more than 100,000 cars in an attempt to deter thieves.
The initiative is costing the car maker more than £1m and will be provided to existing Toyota owners for free.
Police say that reports of catalytic converter theft should be made as soon as possible to increase the chances of detection.
People are encouraged to report any suspicious activity to the police by calling 101, or 999 if an offence is in progress. If you spot something at a railway station, contact BTP by texting 61016 or calling 0800 40 50 40.