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Local police offer help after recent catalytic converter thefts

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Christine Halan
  • 100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

Due to increasing numbers of catalytic converter thefts, RAFs Mildenhall and Lakenheath, England, will be marking them with stickers and metal-marking fluid Nov. 16 and 17, 2016.

“Catalytic converters are parts that filter engine exhaust into less hazardous vapor. Thieves are not targeting the converter for their filter capabilities, but rather for the platinum the parts contain,” said Police Constable Verdun Baptist, Suffolk Constabulary, Forest Heath District.

Recently, the primary targets have been Honda vehicles.

“It’s primarily happening in the early hours of the morning. The catalytic converters are being cut off with pipe cutters, which don’t make a lot of noise and can cut the object in about two minutes,” said PC William Butcher, Suffolk Constabulary, Forest Heath District. “The thieves don’t usually work alone; one will be doing the cutting, another will act as a lookout and often there’s a third person somewhere in the area, who will be the getaway driver.”

“A year to 18 months ago, the problem was centralized around the industrial estates where thieves were targeting transit vans. They rarely targeted cars in people’s driveways, but now that’s not the case,” Butcher said.

Due to the increased threats, it is recommended that those with Honda vehicles get converters marked.

“Personnel who schedule an appointment to get their catalytic converter marked can get them done for only
£3,” said. Tech. Sgt. Phu Christopher Nguyen, 100th Security Forces Squadron Intelligence and Investigations NCO in charge. “This very inexpensive procedure can take fewer than 20 minutes and could save the owner a few hundred pounds in the long run.”

“Because catalytic converters are marked they have a greater chance of deterring thefts. Scrap yards are advised not to accept any marked catalytic converters, and to report all violations to local law enforcement. Be on the lookout for flyers with information to help better protect your vehicle,” said Nguyen. 

If a catalytic converter has been stolen, the vehicle is still able to run. Signs that may indicate the converter has been taken include:

-          Loud exhaust, like that of a lawn mower

-          Smell of fumes

-          Dashboard light turned on  

Getting a new converter installed as soon as possible is highly suggested, as being without one can cause a hazard to both the driver and other road users.

“If it’s been removed, you’ll know there’s something wrong because of the noise; when the converter is removed, instead of the fumes going all the way through the exhaust system and out the back, they’ll come straight from the engine so it’s very noisy,” Baptist said. “An emissions test is done during an MOT and without the catalytic converter the vehicle won’t pass. Although it’s not dangerous per se, removal will have caused damage -- where it’s been cut there will be issues where parts of the exhaust section might not be attached properly. The worst case scenario is parts may come off and become dangerous for other drivers.”

The local constabulary suggests that those with dashcams keep the parking mode activated. By doing this, if the vehicle is moved in any way the dashcam will begin recording and increase the likelihood of identifying thieves in the area.    

For more information about the marking event scheduled for November 17, at RAF Mildenhall, or to make an appointment contact, Tech. Sgt. Nguyen at DSN 238-3094.

To report any suspicious activity or crime contact the Suffolk Constabulary online or at 0800 555111.