Rochdale police column: Catalytic converter thefts

Date published: 17 May 2019

Inspector Robert MacGregor, of the Rochdale East Neighbourhood Policing Team, on what the police are doing to tackle local issues across the borough.

At the moment Rochdale East is experiencing an increase in thefts of catalytic converters along with much of the country. I do not consider myself an expert on vehicles by any stretch of the imagination and so I have spoken with colleagues about these offences to try and provide some meaningful advice to people and to understand what vehicles and areas are being targeted and how the offences are being committed.

You may have seen footage online of these thefts being carried out, often with two offenders jacking a car up for one of them to then cut through the catalytic converter whilst the second acts as a look out. The act can take place in a matter of minutes and the cost of the repair can be in the region of £1,000. The converters themselves sell for about £200-£300.

The vehicle makes and models being more frequently targeted are Honda Jazz/Accord and Toyota Prius’. From conversations with staff at local garages, this appears to be because the catalytic converters in these models are closer to the front of the vehicle and so more accessible to would-be thieves than other makes and models. It appears that the sudden increase in these types of crime is due to the price of palladium increasing. Palladium is contained within the converter.

We have a lot of activity taking place to identify offenders, but this is a good example of a problem which high-visibility patrol will be of limited use. As the offences take such little time, it would require incredibly good fortune to be in exactly the right place at the right time to catch someone in the act, so we have to take time to find different ways of stopping the offenders which we are busy doing. It would defeat the object of that work to go into further detail here.

When I searched online for crime prevention advice in relation to catalytic converters, the information is surprisingly limited. Obviously if you can park your car in a garage then you should do, and other good advice was to park up against a wall to make access to the underside of your vehicle more difficult. You can also have your catalytic converter welded on to your vehicle or buy protective coverings for your catalytic converter which make them much harder to steal.

In addition to this advice I would also add two other options which are ways of marking the catalytic converter on your vehicle so that it is identifiable. This can be done either by having your registration engraved on it, or by using forensic marking (search ‘catalytic converter liquid marking’ online for options) where an invisible liquid is applied to your catalytic converter which has a unique code that links it to your vehicle.

 In the event that someone tries to sell your stolen converter it will then be possible for someone to identify it as yours and the offender who has been in possession of it to be linked to your crime.

These offences are a problem nationally, and the best way we can deal with them is to make our area a harder target.

By following the suggestions for crime prevention above we make our area a riskier place to commit these crimes and offenders will move elsewhere.

We also need information on who is stealing these items, and who is buying them. Although there are scrap metal dealers in the area, it seems more likely that unregistered individuals and groups are buying these items from thieves for onward sale.

We would be interested if you see anything regarding these items being advertised, or any individuals or groups in the area offering to purchase them.  

You can email to provide any information or, if you wish to report something anonymously, you can call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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