Fleets are again being urged to be extra vigilant following the rise in catalytic converter thefts.
Stolen vehicle recovery (SVR) company Tracker says that the rising value of the precious metals catalytic converters contain, such as rhodium, platinum and palladium, is believed to be behind the wave of criminal activity.
Palladium is currently more valuable than gold, pushing the price of a catalytic converter on the black market to more than £500.
Clive Wain, head of police liaison at Tracker, said: “Criminals can remove catalytic converters in seconds, leaving vehicle owners with an average replacement bill of £1,300 and insurance headaches. But costs can soar if the vehicle is written off by the damage caused by thieves stripping converters from the exhaust.”
The warning from Tracker comes after 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).
While any vehicle can be subject to catalytic converter theft, taller vehicles (4x4s) are particularly vulnerable due to the converters being more accessible, says Tracker.
They tend to have larger engines, so contain more of the precious metals, plus plug-in and self-charging hybrid vehicles are also a highly desirable target for thieves as their catalytic converters, are less corroded than those in petrol and diesel vehicles which rely on them more.
The Toyota Auris, Toyota Prius, Honda Jazz and Honda Accord are specific make and models reported by Leicester police to be particularly vulnerable to this type of theft.
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.
Wain said: “Police forces across the UK are committed to tackling the increase in catalytic converter thefts and the organised gangs behind them; just last month, more than 300 Metropolitan police officers took part in an early morning operation across London to smash what is believed to be a criminal network fuelling an increase in the thefts of catalytic converters across the city.”
He continued: “Owners who take measures to safeguard their catalytic converters, are playing a vital role in aiding forces in tackling this increasing type of crime.
“Parking in a secure place isn’t always an option, but parking in a way that makes it difficult for would-be thieves to access the underside of the vehicle can be a huge deterrent.”
West Midlands police just recently issued practical advice to car owners on the back of a spate of catalytic converter thefts in the area, suggesting people park so that the vehicle’s exhaust system is close to a fence, wall or a kerb, making the theft more difficult.
They also recommended avoiding parking vehicles half on the pavement and half on the road, as this may make it easier for thieves to access the catalytic converter.
If parking in a public car park, consider parking alongside other cars and facing your car bonnet towards the wall or bonnet of the opposite parked car if possible. With the catalytic converters positioned at the front of vehicles, this could make it harder for thieves to get close enough to steal it.
Wain explained: “Physical barriers do make thieves think twice before targeting a vehicle, and there are devices owners can install such an alarm that activates if the vehicle is lifted or tilted. There are also catalytic converter protection devices and marking systems available to purchase.”
Fitting a stolen vehicle recovery device, said Wain, can also help if a car is stolen, allowing it to be located and recovered quickly before the essential parts are removed for re-sale.