Theft of Catalytic Converters on the Increase

1st May 2021

Louise Punter CEO of Surrey Chambers of Commerce recently met up with Matt Sessions and Kate Hyder from Surrey Police to learn about a growing crime in Surrey.

Since the start of the Covid – 19 pandemic in March 2020, Surrey has seen a large increase in catalytic converter theft across the county. The value of metals contained within catalytic converters (Rhodium, Palladium, and Platinum) has been increasing significantly for a number of years. Palladium has increased in value by 258%, and Rhodium by 956%, which has likely had an impact in the crime type increasing.

Surrey Police sought to approach the issue of catalytic converter theft from a problem-solving perspective, to understand why the problem was persisting across the whole of Surrey. Nationally, there are large intelligence gaps around where the catalytic converters are sold and broken down. It is believed from the intelligence available, that the majority of these offences are committed by organised crime groups, travelling across the region, heavily targeting a specific area, before moving on.

Louise: What cars are most likely to be the target for criminals?

Matt: Our data shows the most susceptible cars to catalytic converter theft are the Honda Jazz, Toyota Prius, Toyota Auris, Honda CR-V and Lexus RX. Hybrids will always remain the most sought-after vehicle in this kind of crime as they have two power sources, an electric motor and a petrol or diesel engine, so their catalytic converters are used less frequently to process pollutants. That means the metals inside them are less likely to have corroded, making them more valuable.

Louise: Is it just in Car Parks that this crime is committed?

Matt:  Initially the main target was Car Parks but these criminals are pretty brazen, and we are now seeing this happening more frequently on residential roads and driveways This is a higher risk, but it doesn’t seem to be a deterrent for criminals as no-one is realising that a crime is being committed.

Louise: How are you hoping to prevent the theft of catalytic converters in Surrey?

Kate: The key thing for us is to raise the awareness of people to this crime and help them to recognise when it might be happening. It is often committed in broad daylight and because the criminals are often in hi-vis jackets no-one takes any notice of them.

Matt: Office and business park car parks have always been a target for these criminals as they can steal from several cars at once. We need the public to be the eyes and ears for Surrey Police, and the more awareness we bring to this crime the sooner we can bring an end to it.

Louise: So what does the public need to look out for?

Kate: The kind of things we want to make the public aware of is what the scene of this crime looks like. Does it look like they have the keys to that vehicle? Is there a door or window open? Are they changing a tyre? If the answer is “No” to these questions this is suspicious. If they are underneath the vehicle and are in an unmarked van, then that is a red flag. We have had incidents where people have noticed and tried to confront the criminals but we discourage the public from any approaches; Just call 999 and report what you have seen. We have created Car Park signage to simplify messages about what to look for and what to do when you think you can see a catalytic converter theft in action. It would also be really helpful if businesses could put these signs in their car parks.

Kate: Catalytic converter marking kits are also being distributed for free to the highest risk vehicle owners, with 2160 kits having been paid for through a Surrey Police scheme and 600 kindly donated by Toyota. We are working together with some local garages who are offering catalytic converter marking for free. If we stop suspects with catalytic converters in the back of their cars we would hopefully be able to identity that they are stolen as they are registered on a system.

Matt: The fact that the criminals are so brazen fits in with our idea that we need more people to recognise what is going on and stop these crimes. Currently, half a dozen people can walk past a car with the crime being committed and it will mean nothing to them, so we need to help them to recognise and report these criminals.

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