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Hybrid vehicles at high risk of catalytic converter theft, fleets warned

Fleets operating hybrid vehicles are being warned that they’re particularly at risk of suffering catalytic converter thefts after a sharp rise in the crime.

Police with suspect car

Thefts of catalytic converters from cars in England and Wales rose sixfold in 2019, according to BBC figures

Figures published earlier this summer by the BBC show thefts of catalytic converters from cars in England and Wales rose sixfold in 2019. The data, taken from police forces in England and Wales revealed that there were almost 13,000 recorded thefts of the devices last year, with Londoners particularly badly hit.

And Tracker is warning that hybrid vehicles, including full hybrids and plug-in hybrids, are a particular target.

Clive Wain, head of police liaison at Tracker, explained: “Plug-in and self-charging hybrid vehicles are a highly desirable target for thieves as their catalytic converters, which turn the noxious gases in a car’s exhaust system into less harmful substances, are less corroded than those in petrol and diesel vehicles which rely on them more.”

It has been reported that senior figures in the scrap industry believe the stolen catalytic converters are being passed from unlicensed scrap collectors to licensed companies, from where the precious metals become untraceable. Whilst in 2013 the Scrap Metal Dealers Act was introduced – in response to escalating copper thefts at that time – authorities say that the law must be enforced to stop today’s precious metal thieves. This includes banning cash sales for metal and putting more stringent identity checks in place on sellers.

Wain added: “Police forces across the UK are committed to tackling the increase in catalytic converter thefts and the organised gangs behind them. The consequences of these crimes are having a devasting impact upon the lives of victims, which is why intelligence-led operations are being undertaken and continue to be organised by the police at both a regional and national level. Owners of plug-in hybrid cars who take measures to safeguard their catalytic converters, are playing a vital role in aiding forces in tackling this new world corruption.”

Tracker also has this advice for fleets and drivers: “There are simple steps owners can take to protect their vehicle, including physical barriers to make thieves think twice before targeting their car. Installing an alarm that activates if the vehicle is lifted or tilted are particularly effective and owners should consider investing in a catalytic converter protection device or marking system. Fitting a stolen vehicle recovery device, such as those on offer from Tracker will ensure that if a car is stolen, it will be located and recovered quickly before the essential parts are removed for re-sale.”

General advice from police forces across the country to help drivers protect vehicles includes:

  • If you can, park your vehicle in a locked garage when it is unattended.
  • If it’s not possible to garage your vehicle, park it in a busy, well-lit area as close to your property as possible.
  • Consider installing a Thatcham approved alarm to your vehicle. Ones that activate if your vehicle is lifted or tilted are particularly effective.
  • Use a catalytic converter protection device or marking system.
  • Catalytic converters control and convert exhaust emissions from your vehicle into less toxic substances. If yours is stolen, you will know because your vehicle’s engine will sound different. If you suspect your catalytic converter has been stolen, report it immediately by calling 101.
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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for 16 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day. As Business Editor, Natalie ensures the group websites and newsletters are updated with the latest news.