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Fall in catalytic converter thefts thanks to SmartWater initiative

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Catalytic converter thefts have more than halved thanks to parts being forensically marked, according to the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC).

The thefts peaked in March 2021, when 3,245 catalytic converters were stolen, but they have been steadily declining since, with 1,378 recorded in July – a 57% fall.

In April, a 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.

More than 1,000 stolen catalytic converters were recovered and more than 50 people were arrested. 

A national asset database was also created to register catalytic converters, allowing police to identify whether recovered catalytic converters are stolen.

They are marked with a uniquely formulated and heat-resistant solution created by SmartWater, which is linked on the database to a specific vehicle.

SmartWater scientists can identify the vehicle it came from with just a fragment of the solution, increasing the chance of thieves being caught.

The database is operated by the Centre for Infrastructure and Asset Protection (CIAP), an intelligence unit made up of analysts who are accredited police contractors, tracking organised crime groups around the UK.

They work with police on the National Infrastructure Crime Reduction Partnership (NICRP), which is led by BTP, to reduce and tackle crime.

Director of CIAP, Rachael Oakley, said she was delighted, but not surprised, that the police initiative is deterring theft of catalytic converters, as criminals avoid traceable property, whether it’s vehicle parts, copper cable or jewellery.

SmartWater is working with Toyota to protect and forensically mark catalytic converters - one of the benefits of this is that it provides irrefutable evidence linking the criminal to the crime,” she continued. “This has been achieved through accreditation with the forensic science regulator ensuring the evidence stands up to scrutiny in a court of law.”

NICRP lead and BTP Superintendent, Mark Cleland, says that thanks to the support of the Home Office in creating the NICRP and working with Smartwater they have made a real impact in tackling metal and catalytic converter crime.

“While arrests continue to be made, it is the preventative approach through the forensic marking of catalytic converters that gives motorists the opportunity to protect their property and stop the crime in the first place,” he said.

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.

Alternatively, anonymous reports can be made to Crimestoppers online or by calling 0800 555111.

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