Police worried by rise in theft of catalytic converters
Police say they are concerned about a rise in the number of catalytic converters being taken from parked vehicles around Britain.
They are being targeted because of increasing prices in the scrap metal market.
Official figures suggest the number of vehicles targeted has more than quadrupled in the last two years.
Just over 1,100 were taken across Britain, not including London, during the whole of 2009.
In the first five months of this year, more than 2,300 were stolen with the south and east of England among the worst affected areas.
Oli Cooper, 27, master technician
It takes a trained mechanic, like Oli, up to three hours to remove a converter. Thieves have been seen taking them within seconds because they have no regard for the vehicle's condition afterwards.
"A catalytic converter helps to reduce the emissions coming out of a vehicle and makes them safer to the atmosphere," he said.
"They're positioned on the exhaust system and some cars have two of them, located near the engine.
"They have a honeycomb construction inside, which contain precious metals like gold, platinum and so on. As the exhaust gases pass through, the construction then removes all the harmfulness in the gases.
"It's sort of bolted in to the exhaust system itself. It might be clamped on or might be on a whole section so you may have to replace the whole section of the exhaust.
"If someone drives without one then they'll hear an excessively loud noise, sounds like you have a race car. You may discover you have fumes coming into the car too. So it can be dangerous, very dangerous."
Steve Wilkinson, 26
Steve runs his own gardening business in Kent and had a catalytic converter stolen from his van.
"I got up for work one morning and went out to the van to find the exhaust lying on the ground and the catalytic converter missing," he said.
"I can't really repeat what I thought when I saw it. You go to work to earn an honest living and then you get some individuals who ruin it all.
"Being self-employed is a big issue of it. Not only have you got to pay for a new converter, which was £170 for my type of van, you also have the mechanic bill which was at least £100 and then I lost two days of work through the van being off the road.
"My van is quite easy to climb under so I think that's why I was targeted, rather than a car. I think it will probably happen again. There's not much I can do about it though."
What do the police say?
Paul Crowther heads up the police's action against metal theft.
He said: "They simply don't give a damn what the impact is of taking something which they get relatively small amounts of cash for.
"We are talking to manufactures about measures that can be taken.
"We can all remember the days when there was a roaring trade in stolen car radios, but you don't see that so much now because of the steps that manufacturers have taken.
"One of the saddest facts about this is that for a few pounds at the scrap dealer, people will cause hundreds of pounds of damage and disruption to someone's everyday life."