STAFFORDSHIRE Police is calling on people to stay vigilant as officers look to fight a rise in catalytic converter thefts across the county.
The warning comes as intelligence shows many of these catalytic converter thefts take place in broad daylight and in full view of members of the public.
Thieves target catalytic converters as they contain small amounts of precious metals which increases their value – the price of these metals has increased in recent years.
PC Robert Wheat, from the force’s Resolution Centre, said: “It’s really easy for people to overlook these crimes because many don’t give it a second glance – innocently presuming that the cars are either being repaired or having their tyres replaced.
“However, this isn’t always the case and that’s why it’s important for members of the public to stay alert. Offenders tend to travel in groups of three or four and are opportunists – within minutes of targeting their vehicle, they will have stolen the catalytic converter and escaped.
“We need people’s help in tackling this issue so we ask if they can look out for this type of activity and record descriptions – noting down anything that could be useful to us. If it’s safe to do so, recording the incident on your phone is also extremely helpful.”
Vehicles should be parked in highly visible, well-lit areas. Off-road parking areas or secure compounds with strong perimeter fencing, warning signs and security lighting should be used wherever possible.
A monitored surveillance system can also be an effective deterrent and crime prevention of this kind can save on costly repair bills and minimise disruption to businesses.
Marking a catalytic converter with a unique reference will help police identify the owner should it be stolen, so always make sure that property is marked.
You can also report information about crime by contacting the independent crime-fighting charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or through their Anonymous Online Form at www.crimestoppers-uk.org. No personal details are taken, information cannot be traced or recorded and you will not go to court.
How to keep your vehicle safe
1. Always lock it
Fuelling up or popping back into your house to get something are perfect examples of how easy it is to turn your back for a moment and forget your vehicle is unsecured. So get into the habit of locking your vehicle even if you’re only going to be away from it for a moment.
2. Close windows and the sunroof to prevent ‘fishing’
Leaving windows and the sunroof open invites fishing for items through the gap by hand or with, say, a bent coat hanger, which could also be used to unlock a door for them to get in. Thieves can be ingenious. Don’t give them the opportunity.
3. Secure your number plates with tamper-resistant screws
The easiest way to change the identity of a stolen vehicle or avoid speeding tickets and parking tickets is to fit stolen number plates. Using security screws to attach your vehicle’s number plates makes it harder for thieves to get your number.
4. Fit locking, anti-tamper wheel nuts to secure alloy wheels
Stolen wheels are valuable, either as parts or for their scrap value. Using locking wheel nuts reduces the risk of your vehicle’s wheels being stolen.
5. Secure anything that’s on the outside of your vehicle
Anything left on roof-racks, tailgate racks, holiday top boxes or in tool chests are easily stolen when the vehicle is parked. The use of cable locks, padlocks and self-locking tools chests, which are secured to the vehicle, makes them more secure, but still, don’t leave things in them if you can avoid it. For further information and advice, visit Sold SecureExternal Link.
6. Take it with you or hide it
Your mobile phone, coins for the car park, sunglasses, packs of medication or other items that can earn quick cash are irresistible to the opportunist thief. Remember, the cost of replacing a window is often much more than that of what’s stolen. And it should go without saying that wallets, handbags, purses and credit cards should never be left in an unattended vehicle.
7. Hide electrical items and leave no clues
Leaving sat nav mounts, suction cup marks on windows or cables on view gives it away that you have left a Sat Nav, smartphone or other devices in your car. Even if they can’t see the Sat Nav or iPad they might still break in to see if it’s stored in the car, out of sight.
8. Tool theft from vans
Vans are often targeted by thieves for the tools stored inside. If you have to leave tools in a van overnight, it’s a good idea to mark them clearly with your name/company name and address using paint pens and seal with a clear lacquer spray. Alternatively, you can use a variety of other property marking systems. Items that are clearly marked are less desirable and more difficult to sell on.
Consider using a lockable cabinet within your van to store tools – a number of security rated products are available. Small cameras are also designed to record inside vehicles. Visit securedbydesign.com for more details.
You can also take photographs of items of value, make a note of the serial numbers and consider registering them online at a property register site.
9. Park in well-lit and busier areas
It can take less than 30 seconds to break into a vehicle. Parking in well-lit areas and busy streets increases the chances of a thief being seen, so they’ll probably steer clear.
10. Take your documents with you
Having a vehicle’s registration and insurance documents could let a thief pretend to be the owner. Which means they could sell it on quite easily. So, never leave any documents in the vehicle.
11. Choose your car park wisely
If possible, always try to park in well-lit and staffed car parks or those with a Park Mark safer parking award. To find one, simply check out Park Mark.