Message from Inspector Stephen Warnes
I have seen several posts relating to catalytic converter thefts and clearly this is becoming a concern for residents. I am leading on the issue so I will share what I know and what we’re doing.
Why are they stolen?
Catalytic converters contain Platinum, Palladium and Rhodium. All are expensive metals with palladium valued at twice that of Gold. There are far larger quantities of these metals in catalytic converters on Hybrid vehicles. Stolen items are sold as scrap. Typical price is circa £350 whereas that from a non-hybrid model is substantially less.
Which vehicles are targeted?
Toyota Prius, Honda Jazz, Lexus RX models and the Toyota Auris – In that order. These four vehicles account to roughly 70% of all catalytic converter thefts. 65% of Hybrid sales are in London which is why we are experiencing high numbers of thefts. What locations have been targeted? We have identified that retail car parks are the main location for the last few months. Recently this trend has moved to residential streets with an arc from Norbury, Thornton Heath, South Norwood and then into Addiscombe/Shirley.
How are they stolen?
Typically we are finding that cars are stolen and stolen plates from another car are placed onto this vehicle. More often than not the plates are so freshly stolen they’re not yet reported. Cars are usually driven three up and sometimes in convoy with another vehicle where they scout a target area. The suspects will use a heavy car jack with a jaws for life tool, or angle grinder to cut the catalytic converter from the rest of the exhaust. Most cases all the suspects wear balaclavas or face masks and usually swap other stolen plates after each theft.
Who is stealing these?
Organised crime groups are responsible for this spate of thefts. The majority of the suspects are itinerant with multiple addresses making them hard to locate and the offences are sporadic across London and not specific to one area. Suspects will travel large distances committing thefts across multiple boroughs.
What are we doing about this?
We were slightly behind the curve, however we are quickly catching up. I have dedicated officers working with me who are collating all the offences including locations, vehicles targeted, suspect vehicles and suspects. We are engaging with car manufacturers and also conducting scrap yard visits to review stock and working practices. We are working with the Council and also other Police forces who are experiencing the same issue. Mobile patrols are proactively searching and responding to calls. Three offenders were stopped last week with one managing to escape. The car was searched and found to contain a jack, balaclavas, and several stolen converters in the boot. The outstanding suspect was caught and all three have been charged and remanded. That’s five arrests now in the last two weeks and we have another pending. What can you do? There are some crime prevention options available online including “Cat Locs” and other devices to prevent them being cut off. Make sure the car isn’t parked in the dark corner of a car park and also if you have home CCTV that will help. While this doesn’t prevent all offences it will provide a deterrent. Some of the manufacturers have already designed out the problem and cat converters have been relocated to more hard to reach areas under the vehicle.
I have noticed on several community groups that residents are suggesting vigilante action. I strongly discourage this for your own safety. Some of these individuals are dangerous and have used tools to prevent arrest and facilitate their escape. I have also noticed that information and photos are shared with the assumption that they have been reported. Several occasions this has not happened.
Please forward any information to Operation Basswood @ email@example.com
We are working hard to get on top of this issue and I understand this is incredibly frustrating for victims. We have lots planned in the next few weeks and I will continue to post updates.
(Originally published on nextdoor.co.uk)