Thefts of catalytic converters from vehicles in England and Wales were six times higher in 2019 than the previous year.
Official figures show that last year, almost 13,000 devices were reported stolen, with London particularly badly hit. There were just 2,000-plus thefts in 2018.
Criminals sell the parts as desirable spares or simply for the value of the precious metals they contain – rhodium, palladium and platinum.
Assistant Chief Constable Jenny Sims, car crime lead for the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC), said police were committed to tackling the thefts and the organised gangs behind them.
"Police forces across the country are involved in planning and undertaking intelligence-led operations, at both the regional and national level, to stop converters from being stolen, as we recognise the devastating impact these crimes can have upon the lives of victims," she told the BBC.
Stolen vehicle recovery expert Tracker suggests that hybrid vehicles are at a particular risk. Clive Wain, head of police liaison at Tracker, explained:
“Plug-in and self-charging hybrid vehicles are 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.”
Wain says that there are simple fleet operators can take to protect their vehicle, including physical barriers to make thieves think twice before targeting their car.
“Installing an alarm that activates if the vehicle is lifted or tilted are particularly effective and owners should consider investing in a catalytic converter protection device or marking system,” he said.
“Fitting a stolen vehicle recovery device, such as those on offer from Tracker will ensure that if a car is stolen, it will be located and recovered quickly before the essential parts are removed for re-sale.”
Tracker’s top tips for safeguarding your vehicle:
- Park your car in a safe spot – a secure garage is the best option, but a well-lit and overlooked parking spot is also a great – it doesn’t take long to steal a catalytic converter, but it’s certainly not a quiet job so the more visible the car, the better the deterrent.
- Install cameras – Thieves don’t want to be caught on camera. Installing CCTV to keep an eye on your car or parking in areas covered by public CCTV is good protection.
- Install a vehicle tracker system - If a car is stolen, the police are far more likely to be able to find and return it safely if it has a device fitted.
Police forces across the country have also issued the following advice and information to help drivers protect their vehicles:
- Consider installing a Thatcham approved alarm to your vehicle. Ones that activate if your vehicle is lifted or tilted are particularly effective.
- Use a catalytic converter protection device or marking system.Catalytic converters control and convert exhaust emissions from your vehicle into less toxic substances. If yours is stolen, you will know because your vehicle’s engine will sound different. If you suspect your catalytic converter has been stolen, report it immediately by calling 101.