Cat man team’s fight against metal thieves

BFP reporter, John Henderson, took his Freelander to be marked on the catalyst converter. Police are marking them to try and reduce catalyst converter theft''Pictured:  PC Matt Smith
BFP reporter, John Henderson, took his Freelander to be marked on the catalyst converter. Police are marking them to try and reduce catalyst converter theft''Pictured: PC Matt Smith

THE ground clearance of a 4x4 or a van means you do not need a ramp to work under it.

That is good news for home mechanics, but bad news for crime prevention as value of the platinum in catalytic converters (cats) increases.

BFP reporter, John Henderson, took his Freelander to be marked on the catalyst converter. Police are marking them to try and reduce catalyst converter theft

BFP reporter, John Henderson, took his Freelander to be marked on the catalyst converter. Police are marking them to try and reduce catalyst converter theft

That is why I took my Land Rover Freelander along to the Bury St Edmunds’ Safer Neighbourhood Teams latest cat marking session, held at St Edmundsbury Borough Council’s vehicle depot.

With it on a ramp, PCSO Matt Smith said: “The Freelander is good because the cat is up behind the engine and hard to get at, but on many vehicles it’s halfway along the underside.

“The people stealing them are quite professional and take five to seven minutes to take one off.”

He and PCSO Will Pardoe use an engraving tool to mark the cat with the car’s registration, then use heat resistant silver paint to spray the cat to highlight that is has been marked.

PCSO Smith said: “We have told all the scrap dealers that if they see a marked cat they must take the details and car registration number of the person offering it for sale.”

As well as these public marking sessions, they also go to companies to mark their entire van fleets, though they can only do that with access to a suitable vehicle ramp. It is a wise precaution because recently thieves took the cats off one Moreton Hall company’s entire van fleet.

In Suffolk in 2010 there were 140 crimes where 205 catalytic converters worth £203,386 were stolen. In 2011, that dropped to 156 thefts of 196 catalytic converters, but the value rose to £273,049.

Crime Reduction Officer Bernard Plume said: “Catalytic converter theft is an issue countywide.

“Officers regularly patrol industrial estates and other key areas but we are also urging drivers to take extra precautions.

“Security marking your catalytic converter can be very effective and can help to identify it as a stolen item and reduce its value to an offender. Please contact your Safer Neighbourhood Team or your local crime reduction officer on 101 for more information.”