Police warn motorists to be vigilant after rise in catalytic converter thefts

By Alex Marks McLeod

Drivers are unwittingly polluting their towns and cities – as police revealed thieves have been stealing catalytic converters from motor cars.

Police in Leicester have reported a spate of incidents in and around the city. They believe cases may have dropped off because of Coronavirus – but as life has slowly limped back to normal thefts have increased.

Thieves target catalytic converters – a small device fitted to the car exhaust which helps to neutralise harmful CO2 and harmful  emissions – for the precious metals platinum, palladium and rhodium found in the devices. The increase in reported cases have correlated with the boom in global precious metal prices.

Lee Marlow, 50, a resident of Leicester, had his catalytic converter stolen and didn’t know until he took his car for an MOT.

He said: “I was unaware that it happened until my MOT test two weeks later. My car failed the test on omissions – and that was because, unknown to me, thieves had stolen the catalytic converter.”

This price to reinstall his catalytic converter cost Lee about £150. “It was the most expensive MOT I’ve ever had,” he said.

The converters can be sold – depending on the model for anywhere between £100 to £1,000 by the thieves. 

Thieves are efficient and well-practised in using the correct machinery, as the process of taking out a catalytic converter can be done in less than 60 seconds.

A recent theft – filmed by a shocked onlooker in the north area of Leicester – showed two thieves jacking a car up, crawling underneath the motor and swiftly swiping the converter. They left, giving the man filming them a two fingered send off.

Last month, Leicestershire Police warned motorists to be aware of the thieves as incidents increased.

Detective Chief Inspector Reme Gibson of the force said brazen thieves tended to target cars in public car parks.

She said: “We have seen a rise in catalytic converter thefts around the force area. These crimes tend to occur in supermarket car parks and private driveways.

“Any vehicle can be subject to catalytic converter theft; however Toyota Auris, Toyota Prius, Honda Jazz and Honda Accord are known to be more vulnerable to this type of theft. We urge vehicle owners to take measures when parking and reduce the risk of theft.”

Police in Leicester say the number of catalytic converter thefts was 278 in 2017/18.
This has rocketed to 618 in 2019/2020, as thieves look to make a fast buck.
Incidents have been reported at university car parks, hospital car parks, supermarkets and private drive ways.
Police said today they were joining forces with two local garages – Euro Tyres in Barkby Road and Brookside Garage in Cannock Street – who were fitting a catalytic converter market kit free of charge to vehicles. 

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