THEFTS of catalytic converters from vehicles in the West Mercia region have more than doubled over the past three years.
In 2010, 182 incidents of the crime were reported to West Mercia Police, but by 2012 this had increased to 495 – an increase of 63 per cent.
These figures rank the area fourth in the country for catalytic converter thefts, with only Thames Valley, Leices-tershire and London’s Metropolitan Police repo-rting greater amounts of the crime.
This week, six catalytic converters were stolen in a spate of thefts in Kidderminster.
They were stolen from vehicles in Morillon Court, Fulmar Crescent, Whinchat Grove, Dunlin Drive and two from Plover Grove overnight on Tuesday.
And another theft occurred in Dorsett Road, Stourport-on-Severn, some time between 1am on Monday and 5am on Tuesday.
Experts have said the increase in thefts has been caused by the increase in prices of precious metals, with thieves selling them on to scrap metal dealers.
James Goodson, a senior analyst with Brit-ish Transport Police, said: “We’ve seen that in the past metals such as platinum and palladium are affected by the changes in the market.
“That would be reflected at scrap metal dealer level by the dealer offering a better price for that material.
“We’ve identified that when there are increases in the price of these metals and materials then we often see an increase in levels of theft reported to us."”
Catalytic converters reduce poisonous emissions from exhausts and are common targets for theft as they contain precious metals such as platinum and palladium and bills to replace them can run into thousands of pounds.
Vehicles with high ground clearance such as Land Rovers are particularly at risk as it is easier to get underneath them.
It is not illegal to drive a vehicle without a catalytic converter but most will fail an MOT test without one and owners could be prosecuted for causing harmful emissions.
Advice issued by the AA said to reduce risk of the crime drivers should keep their vehicles in garages if possible or park them in well-lit areas and keep an eye out for people working under cars.
Businesses with a large amount of vehicles can obstruct access to those with high ground clearance by parking them alongside those lower to the ground.
A special sticker and metal marking fluid can be ordered from 01233 333 000 or TheISR.org.
Anyone with information regarding thefts of catalytic converters sho-uld contact police on 101.