Figures from police forces in England and Wales show that catalytic converter (CAT) theft from vehicles in England and Wales rose sixfold last year
According to BBC 5 Live, there were almost 13,000 recorded thefts of the devices, with Londoners particularly badly hit in 2019, whilst in 2018 the number of thefts was just over 2000.
Assistant Chief Constable Jenny Sims, car crime lead for the National Police Chiefs’ Council, said police were committed to tackling the thefts and the organised gangs behind them. She said:
“Police forces across the country are involved in planning and undertaking intelligence-led operations, at both the regional and national level, to stop converters from being stolen, as we recognise the devastating impact these crimes can have upon the lives of victims.”
The figures were released to BBC 5 Live Investigations by police forces in England and Wales. Police Scotland and PSNI were unable to provide the relevant data.
Although there were fewer CAT thefts at the beginning of lockdown, it appears they are on the rise again – with a recent spate of thefts from hospital car parks targeting NHS staff.
Whilst there is a legitimate market for second-hand CATS, thieves want them for the scrap value of the precious metals found inside – rhodium, platinum and palladium, which have increased in value, with palladium worth more per gram than gold last year.
According to BBC 5 Live, Scrap industry leaders believe the ‘stolen “cats” are being passed from unlicensed scrap collectors to some unscrupulous licensed companies, from where the precious metals become untraceable.
What needs to change, they say, is the enforcement of a law which was passed in 2013 as a response to the copper thefts which were blighting the rail and power networks.’
Nesil Caliskan, of the Local Government Association, said:
“Councils are targeting their limited resources as efficiently as possible and can take enforcement action where issues are identified.” She added: “Councils have limited powers to tackle unlicensed operators and the LGA has called on government to introduce greater enforcement powers to help local authorities tackle rogue operators.”
Experts are calling for better enforcement of the 2013 Scrap Metal Dealers Act, which bans cash sales and requires identity checks on suppliers.