The Freedom of Information (FOI) request put in by the Liberal Democrats found that only 1% of CAT thefts have resulted in someone being charged.
Of the 20 police forces in England and Wales, where full information was provided, 50,223 CAT thefts were reported in the five-year period (2017-2021), with only 548 suspects being charged. This did not include figures from some of the UK’s largest police areas, including West Midlands Police and Greater Manchester Police.
According to a report on the BBC, ‘in the 20 force areas surveyed, the number of thefts surged from 742 reported in 2017 to 19,451 in 2020, before falling in 2021 – the first full year of the COVID pandemic – to 15,780.
The highest number of thefts from 2017-2021 – 36,586 – occurred in London. Just 544 were solved.’
The Liberal Democrats have now called for more to be done to crack down on the problem, including more visible community policing to deter thieves.
Richmond Park MP, and Lib Dem Treasury spokesperson, Sarah Olney said:
“There is a catalytic converter theft epidemic across many parts of the country, but far too often the gangs responsible are getting away with it.
At the very least, people should be able to expect that if something is stolen from their vehicle it will be properly investigated.”
Victims were “not just massively inconvenienced but often left out of pocket and hit by higher insurance costs”, she added.
A Home Office spokesperson said:
“We recognise the impact that theft can have on victims, and we want offenders charged and brought to justice in the courts.
Since the National Infrastructure Crime Reduction Partnership was set up in 2020, there has been significant success in tackling metal theft through co-ordinated national action against scrap metal dealers – including a marked increase in enforcement action from police and partner agencies.”
During two weeks of national action to tackle catalytic converter and other metal theft, 64 arrests were made, and more than 1,000 converters and other stolen items were recovered,” the spokesperson added.