The results of a recent SmartWater trial with the NationalInfrastructure Crime Reduction Partnership (NICRP) and the British TransportPolice (BTP), show that thefts of catalytic converters have more than halved. Theimplementation of SmartWater, a heat-resistance solution, onto catalyticconverters and other component parts has proved to be a strong deterrent topotential theft.
Now, police are appealing for fleet workshops, garages andMOT test centres to support the new initiative by becoming accreditedregistration hubs.
Thefts of catalytic converters peaked in March when 3,245were stolen. Since then, the number of thefts has been on the decline, with 1,378cases being recorded in July.
A key component to this 57% decline in thefts has been theimplementation of operation Goldiron, which recovered more than 1,000 stolencatalytic converters in April and over 50 arrests. The joint operation betweenthe British Transport Police (BTP) and experts from SmartWater’s intelligenceunit, the Centre for Infrastructure and Asset Protection (CIAP) saw officersand partner agencies visit 926 sites and stop 664 vehicles over five days, recovering1,037 stolen catalytic converters, 297 items of stolen property and identifying244 offences.
Rachael Oakley, director at CIAP, describes SmartWater as a“highly-proven deterrent to criminals and rogue scrap metal dealers as it makesstolen parts too hot to handle”
SmartWater, the heat-resistant solution is invisible to thenaked eye. Able to be applied in ten minutes, the solution glows yellow underUV light and leaves a long-lasting and unique identifier. More significantly,only a fragment of SmartWater is required to link it to a specific vehicle onthe ‘National Asset Database’, which is operated by CIAP on behalf of thepolice.
Mark Cleland, NICRP lead and BTP superintendent said, “Thanksto the support of the Home Office in creating the NICRP, our joint working withSmartWater and other industry partners, and the drive-by enforcement partners acrossthe UK, we have made a real impact in tackling metal and catalytic convertercrime.”
Celeand also stated, “it is the preventative approachthrough the forensic marking of catalytic converters that gives motorists theopportunity to protect their property and stop the crime in the first place.”
Historically, catalytic converters have been targetedbecause of their use of platinum, palladium and rhodium to filter harmful gasesfrom the vehicles’ exhaust systems. When the global value of these metals increases,there is usually a subsequent spike in the number of catalytic converterthefts.
In an effort to protect owners, Toyota has also joinedforces with police and SmartWater. Earlier this year, the carmaker covertlymarked the catalytic converters on more than 100,000 cars. Despite costing thecompany over 1 million pounds, Toyota will be rolling out the initiative toexisting owners for free.
Looking to the future, it appears that the forensic markingcould be applied to other high-value vehicle components which could be a targetfor theft.
As Oakely explained, “We can basically react to where theremight be a crime spike or a trend… Criminals will move quickly; the prices ofprecious metals will start to come down and they’ll move on to something else.”
“We’d like to get ahead of the game by putting in thepreventive measures to stop these crimes becoming the issue that catalyticconverter crime has become.”
It is hoped that the versatility of SmartWater, combinedwith increased involvement from fleet workshops, garages and MOT test centresshould help to further reduce the theft of high-value components across a widerrange of vehicles in the future.