The vic­tim of a cat bur­glar

This man is one of thou­sands to have fallen prey to crooks who tar­get cars for their cat­alytic con­vert­ers. John Evans ex­plains why such crimes are soar­ing


is boom­ing. “China and the US are lead­ing the de­mand for the ma­te­rial, while across the world car mak­ers are in­sist­ing on higher lev­els of pre­cious met­als to avoid emis­sions fines. In­vestors have jumped in and are help­ing to push prices higher.”

Dylan says that last year his com­pany be­gan re­ceiv­ing of­fers of scrapped con­vert­ers from sup­pli­ers who re­fused to tell them where they had got the com­po­nents from. In re­sponse, the com­pany asked for a copy of the V5 ve­hi­cle reg­is­tra­tion doc­u­ment re­lat­ing to each unit. This be­came an ad­min­is­tra­tive night­mare, he says, so now the com­pany will only deal with li­censed traders and re­fuses to pay cash: “We know there are a lot of buy­ers of stolen con­vert­ers be­cause in­creas­ingly they say to us ‘I can get a bet­ter price for cash else­where’. It’s frus­trat­ing. Lo­cal coun­cils and the En­vi­ron­ment Agency need to tighten up site in­spec­tions and close down rogue op­er­a­tors.”

On that point, BBC Ra­dio 5 Live re­ported that of the 243 coun­cils it ap­proached in 2018, only a frac­tion had in­spected scrap deal­ers. Mean­while, in Fe­bru­ary this year, it found that 120 coun­cils hadn’t vis­ited or in­spected any scrap deal­ers in the pre­vi­ous 28 months. Coun­cils say they have limited re­sources and are ask­ing the gov­ern­ment to in­tro­duce greater en­force­ment pow­ers.

Mark Sil­vester, a West Mid­lands Po­lice crime pre­ven­tion man­ager, says leg­is­lated checks on scrap deal­ers must be done: “Con­verter theft is a hard nut to crack, but tougher en­force­ment of scrap deal­ers is a good place to start. We’ve got clean air zones and our fair share of hy­brids and as a re­sult we’ve seen a rise in con­verter thefts.

“Many of these stolen con­vert­ers sur­face on in­ter­net sales sites, so we’ve launched pop-up ad­ver­tise­ments warn­ing peo­ple about rogue parts when they’re brows­ing. We’ve also iden­ti­fied and raided over 100 chop shops where stolen cars are bro­ken for parts. If some­one calls us at 1am and tells us they’ve seen a gang cruis­ing the streets check­ing out cars, we’ll dis­patch an of­fi­cer.”

Un­for­tu­nately for Chris King, it’s un­likely to send one as far as south-west London, where he lives. The vic­tim of con­verter thieves claims he was vis­ited by of­fi­cers from the Metropoli­tan Po­lice only af­ter he wrote com­plain­ing to his lo­cal MP, the mayor of London and Dame Cres­sida Dick, the force’s com­mis­sioner. Lack of ev­i­dence meant the crimes were not in­ves­ti­gated.

A spokesman for the Met Po­lice told Au­to­car that the force is aware of cat­alytic con­verter thefts in King’s area and that lo­cal neigh­bour­hood teams have run op­er­a­tions such as plain-clothes pa­trols to pre­vent them, as well as help­ing lo­cal res­i­dents un­der­stand how to se­cure their car’s con­verter.

“Lo­cal teams con­tinue to mon­i­tor lo­cal thefts and will con­tinue to work proac­tively to stop them,” said the spokesman. Sadly, their ef­forts have come too late for King, who is now en­joy­ing trav­el­ling by bus and feel­ing much more re­laxed.


Videos posted on­line demon­strate how gangs op­er­ate

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