Closing in on catalytic converter thieves

We seized dozens of stolen catalytic converters, arrested two people caught red-handed trying to steal a device from the bottom of a car and carried out numerous raids on scrap metal dealers as part of our work cracking down on car criminals. 

Nationwide, police forces have recorded a sharp increase in catalytic converter thefts and West Midlands Police is no exemption.

As part of our efforts to tackle the rise, we joined Operation Goldiron, a multi-agency week of action carried out across the country.

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We were joined by partnering agencies for our intelligence-led site visits

The operation, which was set up in direct response to rising catalytic converter thefts, was led by the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) and coordinated by British Transport Police (BTP) and the Government Agency Intelligence Network (GAIN).

We joined with key partners, including the Environment Agency, BT Openreach, West Midlands Fire Service and Trading Standards, to support intelligence-led searches and intensive activity, as well as raising public awareness and putting criminals under pressure. 

The operation turned up some great results. We arrested two people on Matlock Road in Tyseley on Friday evening (23 April) who were caught lying underneath a Mercedes using an angle grinder to remove the car’s catalytic converter. 

David Matei, age 28, of Mossfield Road, Birmingham and a 16-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, were both charged with theft from a motor vehicle and will be appearing at Birmingham Magistrates Court on May 6. 

Catalytic converters are fitted to a vehicle’s exhaust pipe and reduce the level of harmful pollutants emitted, but have become a target for thieves due to the valuable materials they contain.

Last week the AA revealed a huge rise in breakdowns from catalytic converter thefts, with cases soaring over the last few years from fewer than 60 in 2017 to almost 4,000 in 2020.

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Evidence bags of broken down catalytic converters seized by officers in Dudley

In Dudley, officers attended a scrap metal dealer where they seized 33 catalytic converters and nine evidence bags of broken down catalytic converters.

The devices are broken down by criminals to access the precious metals inside, including palladium, rhodium and platinum. Demand for these materials has intensified due to the pandemic's impact on mining and the economic toll of lockdown, increasing the value of these metals. 

As well as targeting rogue dealers, officers in Dudley sent information out to the local communities to raise awareness of the issue and upped patrols around the area. 

In neighbouring Wolverhampton, officers visited 12 local scrap yard sites throughout the week to ensure they were licensed and not involved with criminal activity. 

Police teams and PCSOs continued to patrol around New Cross Hospital, Bilston car parks and city centre car parks. Thieves often target vehicles in car parks which they know will be left there for a long period of time. 

Over in Coventry, one of our officers stopped a scrap metal collector on Burnsall Road which had a catalytic converter on board. Not only was the vehicle in a dangerous condition, but the driver had no insurance and will be prosecuted for both offences.

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Stolen catalytic converters found during raids at scrap metal dealerships

Detective Superintendent Scott Griffiths, our force lead for Operation Goldiron, said: “This is an expensive and inconvenient crime, which can result in thousands of pounds worth of damage in replacement parts for the victim. We are taking this growing problem very seriously and are determined to help stop this crime surge.

“We intensified our efforts to tackle catalytic converter thefts during the national week of action, targeting groups who we suspect are behind a large number of these thefts and working with partner agencies and police forces across the UK to tackle criminal activity.

“But our efforts do not stop there. During the week, we gained valuable intelligence that will help us combat the issues going forward. We also continue to gather intel on locations and suspects involved in the handling of stolen catalytic converters and chop shops. 

“Additionally, we are helping the national roll-out of forensic marking of catalytic converters, making it more difficult for thieves to sell the devices on.”

Last week we issued advice on how to help keep your catalytic converter safe, to read the article click here.

For more prevention advice or to report an incident, click here.

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