The borough area of Rushmoor, Hart and Basinstoke and Deane have seen a spate of vehicles, mainly cars, where the catalytic converters are stolen.
I refer to these areas because they are within Hampshire, therefore these are the areas that I know about through local knowledge and crime statistics, however, for readers outside of these areas, I would imagine these types of crime have been occurring elsewhere too.
For those of you who may not be aware, a catalytic converter is the part of the exhaust system which reduces the harmful emissions produced by the engine. They re integral parts of the exhaust which is under the car.
In simple terms, a catalytic converter can be described as plates of metal, closely fitted together which are in one unit along the exhaust system.
To steal a catalytic converter, you simply need to cut through either side of it along the relatively thin metal of the exhaust. It will then become detached as a whole part.
It is the metal inside which the thieves are after, since in some makes of vehicle, there is a good quality metal used and the metal can be sold by a weight, which is more valuable according to the quality of the metal used.
Any catalytic converter is expensive, but some are more expensive than others. The better the quality of the metal, together with the amount of metal plates used, the more valuable it will be.
If you need to replace a catalytic converter through the general wear and tear of using your car, you would no doubt shop around to see which company or fitter has the better price.
Some years ago, I did this, finding one at half the price of another fitter, so I naturally chose the better value one, thinking that one catalytic converter was the same as another.
Two years later I had an MOT and I was told I needed a new one. On telling the mechanic that it was quite a new part and I did not do many miles, this is when I learnt about the metal plates.
I was told that the reason why I had got a seemingly `good deal` was because the quality and amount of metal used was less and the more expensive one`s use more metal and the quality is better. This in motoring terms means that the catalytic converter is more efficient. This made me conclude, that with many things in life, you get what you pay for!
I have digressed a little, but some makes of cars use better quality parts. The current series of thefts have involved Honda and Toyota cars and I am not an expert, but I assume that the thieves know that these makes of car have more expensive metal parts, therefore this is more valuable to them. No doubt there are other makes with similar good quality parts.
As a victim, or a potential one you are probably thinking “where are these crimes being committed and when”. The answer is anywhere and mainly during the day, in full view of other houses too. This brazen approach is chosen by criminals because it is in full view and noisy, therefore drawing attention to them. It is also an incredibly quick operation.
There are mobile mechanics and people who will work on their own vehicles, therefore if a resident looks out and sees someone cutting through the exhaust on the underside of a car, making a lot of noise with the metal cutting tool, you would not immediately assume a theft was taking place and would most probably think that the `work` was arranged.
The other thing is that the criminals know exactly what they are doing and it takes a matter of a few minutes to cut either side of the exhaust from the catalytic converter, which then simply drops out.
The vehicles that are used by criminals will either be unregistered, but most certainly fitted with false or stolen number plates, therefore like the theft in Hook that I investigated last week, even the registration plate of the car used, which was seen by a witness, is of little value, since this is probably changed straight afterwards. However, it does give an idea of one type of car being used, in this case a silver/grey Audi hatchback car.
In terms of protecting your car from these types of crime, it is hard to do so. Since the part is exposed under the car, it cannot be secured, so really being aware of these types of crime is the best advice and to be on the lookout for anything suspicious.
At the moment, if you have a Honda or Toyota car, then these are the more targeted makes. If you so see or hear something suspicious, please phone 999 if it is happening at that time, or the thieves have just left, otherwise, please make an online report, or phone 101.
Provide as much details as you can of the vehicle used by the criminals and a brief description of the people involved. This will be the most important thing for the police, who will then respond and have some idea what they are looking for.
Please don`t challenge any thieves. This can be dangerous, since their desire to get away will be more that your safety and after all, a catalytic converter is only a unit with metal parts and not worth placing yourself in harm`s way for.
Switching quickly to Covid-19, the government advice is changing almost day by day and here is understandably some confusion, so to keep up to date with the advice and rules, keep updated .
PC 1860 Mark Ranola.
Yateley Police Office.