More than 70 catalytic converters have been stolen from parked cars and vans in Dudley as thieves look to cash in on valuable parts.
Thieves slide under the vehicles to remove sections between the engine and exhaust pipe, often using hacksaws.
They can steal the parts and make their getaway within minutes, leaving the cars stranded at the roadside and owners facing bills of several hundred pounds.
Security advisers today urged drivers not to park their cars with two wheels on the kerb as this gives thieves easier access.
More than 70 catalytic converters were reported as stolen to Dudley Police, between April and December 2013 with thieves targeting vehicles including Mercedes Sprinter vans, Kia’s, Mitsubishi, Ford, Peugeot, Citroen and Hyundai vehicles.
Once stolen, the thieves are then selling the parts, which contain precious metals including platinum, palladium and gold, as scrap.
In a bid to track down the culprits, police are coating the costly converters with a special liquid that links them to the car or van they are fitted to. Sgt Corrina Griffiths, from Dudley police station has organised the initiative codenamed Operation Boscat.
She said: “Between April and December 2013 we’ve seen a rise in vehicle crime across Dudley with catalytic converters also being stolen.
“We’re working hard to target these cat crooks and this operation is just one element of a broad range of tactics we’re currently employing.
“The special fluid allows us to check converters that we find on our routine visits to scrap dealers against crime reports.
“With all of their customers having to produce photo ID, we can then trace the person who cashed it in.”
The security marking kits for catalytic converters have a unique tracking number, which is linked to the vehicle and owner details on a register which can be accessed by police at any time. The project is being funded by Safe & Sound, Dudley’s Community Safety Partnership.
“It’s important that all motorists and businesses who own high-clearance vehicles, like 4x4s or vans, are aware of how best to protect themselves as these are easier for criminals to crawl under,” added Sgt Griffiths. “We are also encouraging vehicle owners to get their catalytic converters security marked by taking advantage of our scheme. There are a limited number of the marking kits so we are working on a first come first basis.”
People who sign up to the scheme will then be referred to a garage which will mark the converter, free of charge.
People wanting to take advantage of the scheme should email their name address and phone number to Sgt Griffiths at firstname.lastname@example.org For car security advice visit www.safermotors.co.uk