Official police figures published today show that Croydon is the second worst-hit borough in London for catalytic converter thefts, while the number of arrests for the crime remain “pitifully low”, according to a London Assembly Member.
Crime stats show that in 2017 there were just four thefts of catalytic converters in Croydon. The next year, 2018, saw 49 such thefts, with 510 reported in 2019. In 2020, the number of catalytic converter thefts reported in Croydon almost doubled, to 951.
Among other London boroughs, only Barnet, which had 1,114, had more thefts.
Precious metals are used in catalytic converters. The price of some of these metals has risen sharply lately and led to an increase in the theft of catalytic convertors. Catalytic converters on some cars can cost up to £1,000 to replace.
The catalytic converter is housed in a box on the car’s exhaust system. It cleans up exhaust gases before they’re expelled from the exhaust pipe.
Hybrid cars, such as the Toyota Prius, are targeted by thieves because 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. This means the metals inside them are less likely to corrode, so they’re more valuable.
A catalytic converter contains palladium, platinum and rhodium. According to the latest spot prices, rhodium, as an example, costs £20,000 per ounce. And illegal scrap metal merchants will buy stolen materials for cash.
According to What Car magazine, “On car models where the catalytic converter is underneath the car, thieves can slide under it and simply cut it off. Those with the unit in the engine bay are less susceptible to theft.”
The magazine reports that Toyota’s Prius and Auris hybrid vehicles “have been particular targets for thieves”, and the Japanese manufacturer has developed a protective casing, called the Catloc, which it sells to owners for around £200 to £250 including fitting.
London Assembly Member Caroline Pidgeon today described the soaring figures of catalytic converter crime as “startling”.
“A crime that hardly existed in 2017 is now prevalent in every part of London, leading to serious financial loss for thousands of people and a rise in car premiums for everyone,” Liberal Democrat Pidgeon said.
“Although there is some useful crime prevention advice for motorists, the big picture is that not enough measures are being taken to tackle the gangs behind this crime.
“The number of people who have been arrested for these offences in the last four years is pitifully low.
“When I questioned the Mayor of London on the rise recently, his response was to say that he had written to the Society of Motor Manufacturers back in 2019. Since then these offences have soared to even higher levels.
“Real and comprehensive action to tackle this soaring crime is long overdue and desperately needed.”
Read more: What is catalytic converter theft and how can you prevent it?
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These criminals sell the catalytic converters to scrap metal dealers in the UK and in Eastern Europe; latter arrives there in shipping containers.
The UK Government charged local authorities with registering and monitoring UK scrap metal dealers to break the link in the chain.
Difficult thing to do in Croydon when previous council leaders have bankrupted the council.