The loosening of lockdown is leading to a resurgence in ‘cat crime’ – not of the feline variety, but thieves stealing catalytic converters from cars.
I know first hand – as earlier this month, just before dawn one Friday, a crook brazenly cut mine out of my Toyota Prius in a matter of moments.
I was blissfully unaware – it was 4.35 in the morning – though several neighbours later said they heard power tools being used in the street.
But by the time they had twitched their curtains, the thieves, in face coverings, were leaping into their getaway car and speeding off with my ‘cat’ in their boot.
On the rise: There has been an increase in thieves stealing catalytic converters from cars
These vital car parts are sought after because of the high price of the metals they contain – palladium, rhodium and platinum. These act as catalysts in a reaction to convert polluting exhaust gases into water and carbon dioxide.
Prices of palladium have doubled over two years, while rhodium is four times higher – and both are currently more valuable than gold.
For example, a Troy ounce (1.1 ounce) of gold is worth $1,731 (£1,392) while palladium sells for $1,914 (£1,539). Rhodium is sold in normal ounces – and currently is priced at $8,300 (£6,675) an ounce.
Of course, criminals always follow the money. And with the metals trawled from a single catalytic converter weighing as much as seven grams, they are worth several hundred pounds.
Toyota UK says that in 2018 it provided just 60 replacement catalytic converters, but last year that number shot up to 3,000.
They are even filched in hospital car parks
All petrol and diesel cars have catalytic converters, but thieves target older model hybrids, for example my 2012 Prius and others such as the Honda Jazz, because they are easier to access and contain larger amounts of the metals.
Hybrids emit less exhaust gases because they are powered partially by electricity, so the metals also remain in better condition for longer.
Newer models (for the Prius, that’s 2018 onwards) have their catalytic converters better protected with anti-tampering devices as standard – and they are also stamped with serial numbers.
Beat the thieves by parking near CCTV and get a catlock!
Victim: Sally Hamilton’s Toyota Prius was targeted by catalyst converter thieves
The advice for those without their own garage is to keep the car on a well-lit, busy road – though this tactic didn’t protect my Prius, writes Sally Hamilton.
If possible, find a parking spot with CCTV trained on it – this may act as a deterrent and help police to track down the thieves.
Contact your motor dealer about anti-theft devices that can be retro-fitted.
This is no guarantee a thief won’t cut through a catlock – a device designed to protect a car’s catalytic converter from thieves – but criminals usually prefer easy targets.
If a theft makes insurance renewal expensive, you should look for a better deal.
Try websites such as…