The results of a recent SmartWater trial with the National Infrastructure Crime Reduction Partnership (NICRP) and the British TransportPolice (BTP), show that thefts of catalytic converters have more than halved. The implementation of SmartWater, a heat-resistance solution, onto catalytic converters and other component parts has proved to be a strong deterrent to potential theft.

Now, police are appealing for fleet workshops, garages and MOT test centres to support the new initiative by becoming accredited registration 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 the implementation of operation Goldiron, which recovered more than 1,000 stolen catalytic converters in April and over 50 arrests. The joint operation between the British Transport Police (BTP) and experts from SmartWater’s intelligenceunit, the Centre for Infrastructure and Asset Protection (CIAP) saw officers and 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 makes stolen parts too hot to handle”

SmartWater, the heat-resistant solution is invisible to then aked eye. Able to be applied in ten minutes, the solution glows yellow under UV 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 on the ‘National Asset Database’, which is operated by CIAP on behalf of the police.

Mark Cleland, NICRP lead and BTP superintendent said, “Thanks to the support of the Home Office in creating the NICRP, our joint working with SmartWater and other industry partners, and the drive-by enforcement partners across the UK, we have made a real impact in tackling metal and catalytic converter crime.”

Cleland also stated, “it is the preventative approach through the forensic marking of catalytic converters that gives motorists the opportunity to protect their property and stop the crime in the first place.”

Historically, catalytic converters have been targeted because of their use of platinum, palladium and rhodium to filter harmful gases from the vehicles’ exhaust systems. When the global value of these metals increases, there is usually a subsequent spike in the number of catalytic converter thefts.

In an effort to protect owners, Toyota has also joined forces with police and SmartWater. Earlier this year, the carmaker covertly marked the catalytic converters on more than 100,000 cars. Despite costing the company over 1 million pounds, Toyota will be rolling out the initiative to existing owners for free.

Looking to the future, it appears that the forensic marking could be applied to other high-value vehicle components which could be a target for theft.

As Oakely explained, “We can basically react to where there might be a crime spike or a trend… Criminals will move quickly; the prices of precious 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 the preventive measures to stop these crimes becoming the issue that catalytic converter crime has become.”

It is hoped that the versatility of SmartWater, combined with increased involvement from fleet workshops, garages and MOT test centres should help to further reduce the theft of high-value components across a wider range of vehicles in the future.