A recent spike in catalytic converter thefts from vehicles in public car parks across Northamptonshire, and Northampton in particular, has sparked a warning from police.
The thefts are generally taking place during daytime hours in public spaces such as supermarket, hospital and town centre car parks, police said.
Toyota vehicles, particularly the Prius and Auris models, are the main targets, however all vehicle owners are advised to remain alert.
Paul Golley, who leads the crime prevention team at Northamptonshire Police, said: “The theft of a catalytic converter can have a significant impact on the vehicle owner, often resulting in frustration and expensive repair bills.
“The catalytic converter is a target for theft as it contains precious metals, including platinum and rhodium.
"Criminals can steal the converter in a few quick steps, and often go unchallenged by members of the public.
“If your catalytic converter is stolen, you’ll know about it because your vehicle will sound different when ignition is started.
"They are often positioned on the underside and towards the front of the vehicle, and can be removed by criminals in as little as five to ten minutes.
“We’ve seen a significant increase in Toyota vehicles being targeted, but I would encourage all vehicle owners to be aware and take steps to prevent your vehicle becoming a target.
“However I would reassure the public that the issues we are having here in Northamptonshire are in line with an ongoing national increase, and forces are taking action to show thieves this is not acceptable and will not be tolerated.”
Northamptonshire Police will be running a number of catalytic converter marking events throughout the county for all vehicle owners.
The events will be an opportunity to speak with an officer and receive advice for ongoing vehicle safety, and have a catalytic converter marker applied by a professional.
Neighbourhood Policing Teams will also be conducting visits to scrapyards across the county to ensure stolen catalytic converters are not being sold for the financial gain of criminals.
Dates for the marking events will be released on the Northamptonshire Police website and Facebook page soon.
To speak to the crime prevention team about protecting vehicles, email email@example.com
Advice for motorists
- Some vehicle manufacturers/dealers sell locking devices for Catalytic Converters
- Where possible, park your vehicle in a locked garage, as close to your home as possible or in a parking spot overlooked by residents. Avoid parking your vehicle half on the pavement and half on the road, as this can make it easier for thieves to access the catalytic converter
- If parking in a public car park, consider parking alongside other cars and facing you bonnet towards the wall. With the catalytic converter positioned at the front of your vehicle, this will make it harder for thieves to get close enough to steal it
- When parking in public areas, opt for ‘Park Mark’ accredited car parks as these have CCTV as part of the accreditation
- Consider installing a Thatcham approved alarm to your vehicle. Ones that activate if the vehicle is lifted or tilted are particularly effective
- Consider using a catalytic converter protection device or marking system approved by www.securedbydesign.com. For further advice email firstname.lastname@example.org
- If you see someone acting suspiciously under a vehicle, report it to police. Obtain as much information as possible, including any vehicle registrations
Advice for businesses
- Employ defensive parking to ensure vehicles that are most vulnerable to theft are parked where they are least accessible to thieves. Consider blocking high clearance vehicles in with low clearance ones to prevent a would-be thief from getting underneath
- Check your perimeter security. Ensuring your business has an appropriate boundary fence will act as a deterrent to opportunist catalytic converter thieves
- Use lighting to illuminate areas where an intruder may be seen or attempt to operate
- Consider investing in monitored CCTV to provide protection for your vehicle fleet
- Check vehicle protection measures you are considering are approved by the Secured by Design scheme: securedbydesign.com