Bath Chronicle

‘Gang’ sus­pected as thefts of cat­alytic con­vert­ers rocket

- Stephen Sum­ner Lo­cal democ­racy re­porter stephen.sum­ner@reach­ Crime · Personal Safety · Toyota · Toyota Motor Corporation · Somerset · Bath and North East Somerset · Bath and North East Somerset · Bristol · Bath · United Kingdom · Toyota Prius · Japan · France · Theft Prevention · North Somerset · Taunton

Som­er­set’s po­lice chief says he’s shocked by day­light thefts of cat­alytic con­vert­ers, which have forced a ma­jor man­u­fac­turer to in­crease pro­duc­tion of spare parts.

Chief con­sta­ble Andy Marsh and car maker Toy­ota both sug­gest an or­gan­ised crime gangs are be­hind a huge rise in thefts.

The num­ber of cat­alytic con­vert­ers stolen in Avon and Som­er­set has shot up ten­fold in the last 12 months.

Po­lice say the high price of the met­als in­side make them at­trac­tive to thieves and they are rel­a­tively quick and easy to swipe.

The in­ci­dents hap­pen weekly in Bath and North East Som­er­set, where 74 cat­alytic con­vert­ers were stolen in 2019/20, up from just two the pre­vi­ous year.

An­other 90 were taken from ve­hi­cles across Bris­tol and Som­er­set, up from 13 in 2018/19.

Po­lice are car­ry­ing out tar­geted pa­trols.

The is­sue was raised dur­ing a re­cent call-in on BBC Ra­dio Bris­tol with Avon and Som­er­set Po­lice chief con­sta­ble Andy Marsh.

Mark, a caller from Bath who did not give his sur­name, said: “My car was jacked up on my drive­way at 8.30 in the morn­ing and the cat­alytic con­verter was stolen. An­other car, ex­actly the same, 100 me­tres down the road.

“This is go­ing on in su­per­mar­ket car parks, park and rides, peo­ple’s streets and drive­ways. It seems noth­ing is be­ing done about it.

“When I en­quired how long it would take [to re­place] they said there were 600 cat­alytic con­vert­ers just for my car on back or­der. It could take un­til the new year to get one. For­tu­nately, it didn’t take that long.”

Mark said he was told the de­vices – which con­tain pre­cious met­als in­clud­ing plat­inum, pal­la­dium and rhodium – get shipped to eastern Europe af­ter a crack­down by po­lice in the UK.

Chief con­sta­ble Marsh said the op­er­a­tion had sig­nif­i­cantly dis­rupted the mar­ket for stolen me­tal be­cause traders have to leave their de­tails. He said it was “shock­ing” for cat­alytic con­vert­ers to be stolen in broad day­light and an or­gan­ised gang was prob­a­bly to blame.

Hy­brid cars such as the Toy­ota Prius, which have more valu­able cat­alytic con­vert­ers, are par­tic­u­larly likely to be tar­geted.

A spokesper­son for Toy­ota said: “We have worked very hard with sup­pli­ers in Ja­pan and France and else­where to en­sure we can meet de­mand, which has grown a lot as this or­gan­ised crime has in­creased mas­sively.”

Po­lice are car­ry­ing out tar­geted pa­trols af­ter a spike in thefts of cat­alytic con­vert­ers from park and rides in North Som­er­set, Bath, Bris­tol and Taun­ton over the last six months.

A free­dom of in­for­ma­tion re­quest re­sponse showed that there were just 15 stolen in Bris­tol, Som­er­set, and Bath and North East Som­er­set in 2018/19, but last year that shot up to 164.

Po­lice have is­sued this ad­vice. If you see some­one act­ing sus­pi­ciously around a ve­hi­cle, re­port it to po­lice on 101. Ideally, pro­vide a ve­hi­cle reg­is­tra­tion/make/model and colour, and a de­scrip­tion of the sus­pects. If you wit­ness a crime in progress, call 999.

You can help to de­ter thieves by: ■ Park­ing your ve­hi­cle in a se­cure garage overnight or some­where that makes it dif­fi­cult for thieves to ac­cess its un­der­side

■ Park­ing where neigh­bours and passers-by could see any­one tam­per­ing with the ve­hi­cle

■ In­stalling mo­tion-ac­ti­vated se­cu­rity light­ing or CCTV

■ Mark­ing your cat­alytic con­verter with a com­mer­cially avail­able etch­ing kit or fit­ting a “cat” clamp or alarm. This can also help po­lice trace the item and prove a theft, help­ing bring of­fend­ers to jus­tice.

 ??  ?? Cat­alytic con­verter thefts are ris­ing
Cat­alytic con­verter thefts are ris­ing

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