Devon and Cornwall Police are urging motorists and garage owners to be vigilant following a spate of catalytic converter thefts.

Catalytic converters are used to decrease air pollution by converting toxic exhaust emissions into non-toxic substances. The average converter contains one to two grams of platinum, palladium and rhodium, making them a target for thieves who can then attempt to sell these high value materials to scrap metal merchants.

A steep rise in metal costs over recent years has led to significant increases in thefts of catalytic converters across the UK.

In Devon and Cornwall over 1,000 catalytic converters have been stolen in the past three years and this week one motor dealer in Cornwall had 19 converters, with a combined value of over £30,000, stolen from their premises overnight A number of businesses and individuals have been targeted and police are warning people to do all they can to prevent thefts from their own vehicles.

PC Richard Juniper of Devon and Cornwall Police said: “We are working tirelessly with partners and businesses to tackle this issue robustly and we have operations running to disrupt those selling stolen metal but this is an ongoing issue and we need business owners and motorists to be aware and to help us deter thieves.

“You can help prevent your converter being stolen by taking one or more of the steps here. We would also ask people who witness any suspicious behaviour, particularly overnight on industrial estates or garage forecourts, to ring the non emergency police number 101 or to call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”

Steps to prevent catalytic converter thefts

• Park your vehicles in a garage or in the most secure place you can.

• If you cannot prevent access to your vehicle park as close as possible to a kerb or wall.

• Block high clearance vehicles with low clearance vehicles.

• Have your catalytic converter etched or forensically marked and place stickers in the windscreen to say this has been done.

If a catalytic converter is a “bolt on” have the bolts welded shut – this will only deter thieves working with wrenches but it may still be enough to deter a theft.

• Consider installing CCTV and/or security lighting.

• Consider using vibration sensitive alarms or cage clamps.