BBC Reveals Scale of Catalytic Converter Theft – How Can We Stop It?

According to a BBC Radio 5 Live investigation, there were almost 13,000 recorded catalytic converter (CC) thefts in England and Wales, with Londoners particularly badly hit.

In 2018, there were just over 2,000 thefts, says the BBC, which shows how thos scrap metal theft has really gained traction with professional thieves.

Assistant Chief Constable Jenny Sims, car crime lead for the National Police Chiefs’ Council, said police were committed to tackling the thefts and the organised gangs behind them.

“Police forces across the country are involved in planning and undertaking intelligence-led operations, at both the regional and national level, to stop converters from being stolen, as we recognise the devastating impact these crimes can have upon the lives of victims,” she said.

Interestingly Police Scotland refused to help the BBC with any CC theft data.


Back in February The Guardian reported how one Toyota Prius owner had suffered two catalytic converter thefts, and his insurer Direct Line had declined to offer further insurance against the theft risk. Hybrid cars are especially prone to this type of crime, and as LV= noted, the cost to repair and replace can be around £1000.

The primary reason behind the thefts is the value of palladium inside the converter, as the bullion price for palladium has soared over the last year or so.

Releasing the palladium – and sometimes platinum – from the inner honeycomb and then dissolving it using various chemicals is dirty, slightly dangerous work, but can be completed by semi-skilled thieves, with angle grinders, large glass jars and the right mix of chemicals. In fact there are dozens of You Tube videos showing you exactly how to do it.

Reading the official Toyota UK blog post on Catloc devices – which make it harder to simply unbolt the CC from the car, you can see the Toyota owner posts, expressing frustration and anger.

The general feeling is that car makers must tell their customers that hybrids are at risk, and offer discounts on catalytic converter security. Tilt sensors being built into car alarms are another solution, so that at least a loud noise is going off as the thieves attack the CC – they need to lift up the car to do this of course.

Insurers and brokers, especially those comparison sites specialising in car insurance, could do more to warn owners of hybrids regarding the risks. They could offer Catlocs, smartwater parts marking and other anti-theft products at a discount, especially at renewals time – good reward for consumer loyalty, rather than switching for price reasons.

According to Admiral the most most susceptible CC theft cars are:

  • Honda Jazz
  • Toyota Prius
  • Toyota Auris
  • Lexus RX

Another more practical strategy is tracking the resale of palladium and other precious metals more rigourously, plus restricting the sale of chemicals such as dissolving acids to officially registered car parts recycling plants, scientific labs, schools etc, not just any backstreet garage or online trader with a convincing commercial premises address.

If you make it harder to carry out the process of metal extraction, and put more resources into tracking the money trail following the subsequent resale of that palladium, then you will see a fall in thefts. It is illegal to pay cash for scrap metal of course, but that isn’t stopping an explosion in demand for stolen CCs – so where are the bars of smelted palladium being sold, which companies are taking electronic payment for that?

Follow the money and you will find the gangs behind this trade. It isn’t that difficult. The question is; can politicians be bothered to take action on an issue that doesn’t win them lots of votes, or polish their virtue signalling haloes?





About alastair walker 12154 Articles
20 years experience as a journalist and magazine editor. I'm your contact for press releases, events, news and commercial opportunities at Insurance-Edge.Net


  1. An alarm is pointless, as the gang will usually have a member with an jack lever, to see off any intruder for the 2 minutes it takes.

    Seems attacking the metal smelter is pointless, as they tend to just be packed in a sealed shipping container & exported.

    Seems prosecuting the thieves is pretty pointless, as if they’ve got any sense, the fine will be for just one exhaust & they can steal several a night & may safely work for years without being nabbed.

    I’d suggest the government invest in say 5,000 hardened sim trackers, inserted inside catalitic converters of target cars & powered off the converter’s sensor wires. That way they’d find the exporters & their stock & make this thriving new industry both uneconomic & too dangerous to get involved in.

    Movement of the tracker without corresponding exhaust heat would send the tracking signal.

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