BBC Radio 4 – The World at One – car servicing Redbourn Auto Solutions

 

BBC RADIO 4 – THE WORLD AT ONE – car servicing Redbourn Auto Solutions

 

Catalytic converter thefts double as metal prices rise

Catalytic Converter

 

Rise in catalytic converter theft

Thefts of catalytic converters from motor vehicles have more than doubled over the past three years, a BBC investigation has found.

Almost 25,000 thefts were reported to police forces across the UK between 2010 and the first half of this year.

Thieves are ripping out the devices because they contain precious metals such as platinum and palladium.

Motorists can be left with repair bills of thousands of pounds.

Catalytic converters reduce poisonous gases from the vehicle’s exhaust system.

Information obtained from 40 UK police forces revealed thefts UK had more than doubled between 2010 and 2012.

Some parts of the country saw a significant rise – in Bedfordshire and South Yorkshire thefts increased more than tenfold.

They more than tripled across Cheshire, Greater Manchester and Leicestershire during the same period.

 

Most catalytic converter thefts

Forces with largest number of thefts

James Goodson, a senior analyst with British Transport Police, says rises in the global price of platinum have fuelled the illegal trade.

He said: “We’ve seen that in the past metals such as platinum and palladium are affected by the changes in the market. That would be reflected at scrap metal dealer level by the dealer offering a better price for that material.

 

How Can You Prevent Theft?

 

  • Catalytic converters can be uniquely marked in acid with a serial number
  • Motorists are advised to keep their cars in garages or park in well-lit areas
  • Most converters are bolted on – but they can be welded, which makes them harder to remove
  • Fleet owners are advised to obstruct access to high vehicles by parking cars with lower ground clearance round them
  • CCTV cameras should also be installed and warning notices posted up nearby

Source: AA and Humberside Police

“We’ve identified that when there are increases in the price of these metals and materials then we often see an increase in levels of theft reported to us.”

Police say vans and 4×4 vehicles, which are easy to crawl underneath, are particularly at risk.

Det Supt Alison Evans, national co-ordinator for the National Metal Theft Task Force, said: “We have people involved in organised crime [here], because we have had depots and fleets being hit, and that suggests a level of pre-planning that isn’t involved in your spontaneous type of offending.

“We know from our intelligence from the arrests we’ve made that most of the people we have arrested are UK residents. There is an element of Eastern European involvement but a lot of these people are people who trawl around the country in order to attack particular locations that have been identified as vulnerable.”

Det Supt Evans went on: “Catalytic converters can be processed through some scrap metal dealers, but they need to have a particular piece of equipment to be able to do that.

“But one of the emerging problems that we have identified is the direct export – them being exported in containers to emerging economies where they are either reused or then they can be broken down there.”

Legislation that came into force on 1 October banned cash payments for scrap metal with the aim of making it easier to trace people selling stolen metal.

Catalytic converters

Catalytic converters contain valuable metals, which are often exported to mainland Europe

Jonathan Elvidge’s fleet of delivery vans was targeted by thieves just before Christmas 2011.

Fifteen vehicles were stripped of their catalytic converters when his depot was raided one night.

Mr Elvidge said: “We’re all about gifts and gadgets, we’re all about Christmas, so it was a massively busy time for us.”

He said the thief managed to saw through and remove all 15 catalytic converters within 45 minutes.

Mr Elvidge said: “The cost to the business was significant. I mean keeping the vehicles on hire and bringing in new vehicles would have cost us £15,000 to £20,000.

“But the real cost is the lost revenue in the stores, which we estimate will be in excess of £100,000. So the real risk to the business, was going out of business.

“We employ 600 people at that time of the year and all those jobs could have been at risk because we couldn’t get the stock out to the stores.”

 

Rise in converter thefts

2010 3,957

2011 7,236

2012 8,947

2013* 4,485

Total thefts** 24,618

*Figures for 2013 are from 1 Jan 2013 – 30 June 2013
** Total from 46 police forces


Catalytic converters reduce harmful emissions of hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides into the atmosphere.

They contain a ceramic honeycombed core coated with metals such as platinum, palladium and rhodium.

The metals act as catalysts and convert the harmful gases into water vapour and less harmful emissions.

A Department of Transport spokesman said it was not illegal to drive without a catalytic converter but you could be stopped by the police and prosecuted for breaking the law on harmful emissions. Most vehicles will also fail an MoT test without a catalytic converter.

 

Catalytic converter thefts by force

Force 2010 2011 2012 2013 Total
Avon & Somerset 39 242 83 364
Bedfordshire 31 138 340 212 721
Cambridgeshire 107 224 228 213 772
Cheshire 67 164 208 72 511
Cleveland 14 12 25 8 59
Cumbria 11 32 33 18 94
Derbyshire 43 67 147 44 301
Devon & Cornwall 68 113 207 49 437
Dorset 41 40 108 12 201
Durham 191 159 68 418
Dyfed-Powys 2 28 55 41 126
Gloucestershire 53 271 178 122 624
Greater Manchester 79 161 285 104 629
Gwent 14 21 38 24 97
Hertfordshire 244 347 402 204 1,197
Humberside 14 52 113 26 205
Kent 434 347 239 248 1,268
Lancashire 27 59 40 23 149
Leicestershire 195 260 633 174 1,262
Lincolnshire 24 69 175 62 330
Merseyside 20 40 142 42 244
Metropolitan Police 664 1,056 1,181 616 3,517
Norfolk 270 178 192 129 769
Northamptonshire 91 166 266 138 661
Northumbria 47 135 59 21 262
North Wales 16 48 34 26 124
Nottinghamshire 70 87 343 86 586
South Wales 23 55 88 28 194
South Yorkshire 15 70 177 104 366
Staffordshire 83 143 240 89 555
Suffolk 152 157 234 202 745
Surrey 345 436 196 31 1,008
Sussex 64 158 118 52 392
Thames Valley 173 626 588 425 1,812
Warwickshire 48 46 81 43 218
West Mercia 182 495 495 342 1,514
West Midlands 141 272 192 160 765
West Yorkshire 50 366 386 123 925
Police Service of Northern Ireland 2 8 5 2 17
Police Service of Scotland: Aberdeen – Legacy Grampian Police 2 3 0 3 8
Police Service of Scotland: Dumfries – Legacy Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary 1 4 5
Police Service of Scotland: Dundee – Legacy Tayside Police 4 4 10 1 19
Police Service of Scotland: Edinburgh – Legacy Lothian and Borders Police 2 3 0 3 1
Police Service of Scotland: Glasgow – Strathclyde Police 21 45 60 7 133
Police Service of Scotland: Glenrothes – Legacy Fife Constabulary 2 3 0 1 6
Police Service of Scotland: Stirling – Legacy Central Police 2 1 4 0 7
Grand Total 3,957 7,236 8,947 4,485 24,618

BBC Radio 4 – The World at One – Car servicing Redbourn Auto Solutions
BBC Breakfast Catalytic Converter Marking

 

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