Nottinghamshire Police is providing free “smart water” kits to help turn the tide on catalytic converter thefts.
Thieves have targeted car exhaust systems in recent years because some of the rare metals found in the catalytic converters are more valuable than gold and can be easily sold on.
A clampdown on catalytic converter thieves was launched by Nottinghamshire Police earlier this year after national statistics suggested there had been a 104 percent rise in devices being stolen between 2019 and 2020.
In Nottinghamshire, more than 90 were stolen during the first four months of 2021, with nine catalytic converters taken from cars across the county in a single night in March.
This prompted the launch of Operation Yachtsman which has seen detectives from CID and intelligence working with neighbourhood and response officers to share information and take an intelligence driven and targeted approach to offenders and hotspots.
To further combat the rise in catalytic converter thefts, Nottinghamshire Police is now providing free SmartWater kits to increase the chances of thieves being caught.
The water-based liquid is simply painted on to the catalytic converter of the vehicle and SmartWater scientists only need a speck of the solution to identify the vehicle it came from, enabling the police to prosecute thieves.
Around 75 kits are up for grabs and members of the public can now collect them from Radford Road Police Station.
PC Hannah Strong, who is based at the station and came up with the idea, said: “Catalytic converter theft is a rising issue in our communities and it’s something we can tackle primarily with crime prevention methods and advice.
“As local policing teams, we have stocks of forensic marking liquid SmartWater, which is perfect to use as a deterrent as it’s easily detectable by legitimate scrap yards and metal traders.
“The kits are available from the front counter of Radford Road Police Station. There are a limited number of kits available, so it is on a first come, first served basis.
“At this time this is just a trial scheme, depending on the success of this we may be able to resource more kits in the future.”
Catalytic converters are devices fitted to vehicle exhausts to reduce the amount of dangerous gases emitted. They are often targeted by thieves as they contain valuable metals and can be removed in less than a minute.
The increase in these thefts is an international issue, with hybrid cars particularly vulnerable because their converters are cleaner, which means the metals inside them are less likely to corrode.
Thieves will often pretend to be mechanics and use power tools to cut through exhaust pipes – often in broad daylight outside people’s homes and even in car supermarkets.
Nottinghamshire Police is urging people to be vigilant in their local areas and if they spot anything suspicious to call 999 immediately as this will be treated as a crime in progress.
PC Strong said: “We are determined as a force to crack down on this issue but it’s important car owners do all they can to mitigate the risk of having their catalytic converter stolen.
“The first thing to do is to find out where your catalytic converter is located on your car. If it’s at the front then park with the bonnet towards a wall if possible. If it’s at the back, park with your exhaust to the wall.
“Avoid parking half on the pavement and half on the road as this may make it easier for thieves to get under your car.
“If your catalytic converter is bolted on, you can ask your local garage to weld the bolts to make it more difficult to remove. You can even purchase a ‘cage clamp’, a device which makes converters more difficult to remove.”
Another option for drivers is to ask their garage or dealership to fit a tilt sensor, which activates an alarm if anyone tries to jack the vehicle up to steal the converter.
Signs of a catalytic theft taking place include a vehicle being raised using a car jack in a car park or residential area, or a loud drilling or cutting sound coming from underneath the vehicle.
Pictured: Enquiry officer Peter Dean with one of the SmartWater kits