Catalytic converter thefts soar in Northamptonshire

Hundreds of people have been targeted in our county

Wednesday, 21st October 2020, 7:00 am

"If I get to Asda, are they going to do it while I do my shopping? There's nothing stopping them and that's worrying."

That's the view of just one of the hundreds of victims to be targeted by catalytic converter thieves in Northamptonshire with the number of reported incidents soaring by TWO THOUSAND PER CENT.

Just a few years ago, between April 2017 and March 2018, just 14 incidents were recorded in our county. But during the same time frame between 2019 and 2020, there's been a huge increase to a staggering 295.

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How thieves left one victim's car in Rothwell.

Catalytic converters, which control and convert emissions, contain precious metals such as rhodium and palladium,which can be stripped out and sold. Hybrid cars are an easy high-value target because they produce lower emissions, meaning the metals are less corroded.

Often working in groups callous thieves jack up a vehicle, cut out the device and flee within minutes, leaving their victims with a huge bill to get their car back on the road.

One victim, Desborough woman Claire Partridge, was targeted in August with her family left having to fork out £1,500.

Three men, all wearing ski masks, drove into Burghley Close and jacked up her husband's car, a Honda CRV, and started looking at others. They tampered with her Peugeot and cut the catalytic converter from the Honda before making off when they were disturbed by a neighbour.

Catalytic converter thefts are on the rise.

Claire, 45, said: "They were able to get it up, cut it off and go within minutes. It's all really scary.

"If it happens again we won't be able to afford to get the car fixed. It's horrible and it's heartbreaking.

"They are only out for themselves but it's folk like us, that are trying to work and live, that pay for it. It's soul destroying."

Corby woman Anita Ashwood was targeted after she parked her Honda Accord at work at B&M in Lloyds Road on October 3.

It was the second time in just a few months that she was left with a bill after they were disturbed when they were halfway through cutting the device from her car earlier this year.

But the second time they were successful and it was only when Anita put her key in the ignition that she realised. The engine management light came on with a horrible noise coming from the car, with mechanics telling her it would cost between £200 and £600 to fix it.

She said: "I should be able to leave my car anywhere and not have this happen.

"If I get to Asda, are they going to do it while I do my shopping?

"There's nothing stopping them and that's worrying."

A third victim, who asked to remain anonymous, was even thanked by brazen thieves who struck in the middle of the day in Rothwell.

Just after 3pm on October 2 three men in a silver modified VW Golf, who wore masks, drove into the Columbus Crescent area and jacked up her Honda Civic.

Her son spotted them and after alerting his mum she challenged them, with the thieves claiming they were "fixing a mate's car".

But after cutting the catalytic converter off they then shouted "cheers for that love" before making off.

The victim, who raised £350 through an online page to recoup the costs, said: "I just couldn't believe it. The thing that shocked me was just how brazen it was.

"It was broad daylight. They must have done it in seven or eight minutes.

"It's just horrible. To get it fixed is probably going to cost more than the car is worth."

Thieves struck at KGH car parks at the height of the coronavirus crisis with incidents also reported in Braunston, Geddington, Daventry, Oundle and more in recent weeks.

The number of thefts, however, does appear to be showing a slight decrease in the most recent five months.

Figures released by Northamptonshire Police show 71 catalytic converter thefts between April and September - fewer than the 87 in the first two months of 2020.

But the number is still far higher than a few years ago and a worry for many county motorists.

So what are police doing about it?

Northamptonshire Police's crime prevention manager, Laura Jones, said: “Across the country, more and more catalytic converters are being stolen due to the metals they contain. In Northamptonshire, we are working with our regional colleagues to tackle this issue in a coordinated way, in order to identify the offenders and bring them to justice.

“More importantly however, we need to work to stop these offences as they can often damage a car very badly, having very real consequences for many people who rely on their vehicles to get them to and from work. The work we have been doing involves undertaking visits to scrapyards and continually gathering intelligence in order to build a picture regionally of the people committing these offences.

“A lot of vehicles are targeted whilst parked in car parks and a number of posters have been distributed for display in these areas - encouraging members of the public to call police should they see anyone acting suspiciously or trying to access the underneath of vehicles. Information and intelligence from communities on people they believe to be involved, including vehicles the offenders may be driving, is really important to help prevent and detect this crime.

“The crime prevention team have also held a number of catalytic converter marking events - meeting vehicle owners and providing advice and guidance on how to protect their vehicles from theft. To help prevent this crime, park vehicles so that it is harder to access the underneath. At home, where possible, use driveways, park close to the house, and in well-lit areas.

“Use park-mark accredited car parks and park close to other vehicles to help prevent access. Consider installing an approved car alarm which activates if the vehicle is lifted or tilted and consider marking your catalytic converters as this will make them less attractive to thieves by making them harder to sell on. In addition, we would advise you to speak to your dealership when buying a vehicle as there are catalytic converter locking-devices available.

“For further advice and guidance please contact the crime prevention team at [email protected]

- If you have any information about a catalytic converter theft, or see anything suspicious, report it to police by calling 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111