POLICE in Kent are keen to put the brakes on a fast-growing trend for catalytic converter theft from vehicles and are using SelectaDNA Grease to trap thieves in the act.
With ongoing demand from the Far East for precious metals, and parts that contain them, Kent Police say that over 150 incidents of catalytic converter (CAT) thefts have taken place in the last few months and more than 35 in the last two months alone.
When a converter has been stolen, instead of a driver hearing a soft engine noise when they turn on the ignition, they are greeted by a deafening sound coming from underneath the vehicle. The theft could also cause additional damage to the vehicle, making it highly dangerous to drive.
DC Jonathan Faulkner of Kent Police said: “If a thief knows what they are doing, they could remove a cat converter in 30 seconds flat. It takes very little time to cause a lot of expensive damage, and it may cost the owner up to £1,200 to replace it.”
DC Faulkner and his team have recently instigated a scheme using SelectaDNA Grease to mark ‘trap’ vehicles, in an attempt to catch CAT thieves at work.
SelectaDNA Grease is an invisible solution with a unique marking property which can link thieves to a crime scene. It can be used on any outdoor materials such as lead roofing, drain covers or copper piping. When a thief touches something that has been coated with DNA Grease, it transfers onto their hands and clothing and is almost impossible to remove. Police can use an ultraviolet light to expose traces of the substance on suspected thieves.
“Once an unmarked converter has been removed from a vehicle it's very difficult to link it back to that vehicle as there aren't any distinguishing features,” said DC Faulkner. “However, by using SelectaDNA Grease the marking solution will not only link the CAT back to the vehicle, but will also link the thief to the stolen CAT.
He continued: “We are not going to disclose where the trap vehicles are parked, but thieves will be caught on camera if they attempt to do anything to them. This evidence can lead to a prosecution.”
CATs have been fitted in the exhaust of most petrol cars manufactured since 1992 and are responsible for reducing harmful pollutants from the exhaust.
The metal casing of the CAT features a ceramic honeycombed structure that contains approximately 1-2 grams of three precious metals - platinum, palladium and rhodium. All of the metals have risen in price recently and are currently at their highest level for more than two years.
In one recent incident, thieves stole CATs worth £40,000 from 13 vans on an industrial estate in Kent. Thieves have been targeting larger vehicles such as vans and 4x4s because it is easier to slide underneath them to steal the converter, and also because the CATs are bigger and therefore contain more precious metal.
Thieves tend to use small battery-powered saws to cut through the exhaust pipe either side of where the converter is fitted, and on some vehicles they might only need to unscrew a few bolts to release it.
Kent Police confirmed that CAT theft is an increasing problem across the south east and that they are keen to raise awareness of these thefts with the aim of preventing them from happening in the first place. They are working closely with scrap metal dealers to make sure accurate records are kept of anyone selling catalytic converters.
For further information and images contact: Angela Singleton, Press Officer for Selectamark.
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