Published: 06:00, 02 December 2020
| Updated: 17:09, 02 December 2020
Motorists are being hit with hiking numbers of catalytic converter thefts - with offences soaring five-fold on last year.
Police chiefs say they are ‘pro-actively patrolling’ areas hit by crime spates in Kent but victims argue more needs to be done.
Criminals prey on the exhaust devices as they contain valuable metals which can be sold at a premium - often worth more in weight than gold.
A Freedom of Information request revealed by Kent Police shows:
Details of the eye-watering leap comes after Admiral revealed a drop of thefts nationally during lockdown - but incidents are back on the rise with restrictions easing.
Thieves often target hybrid cars which contain a higher concentration of precious metal palladium.
It is a shiny white metal in the same group as platinum, along with ruthenium, rhodium, osmium, and iridium.
Its key commercial use is as a critical component in catalytic converters - a part of a car's exhaust system that controls emissions - found mainly in petrol and hybrid vehicles.
And the metal almost doubled in value over the last year as demand outstripped supply.
Hybrid versions of Honda Jazz, Lexus RX and Toyota's Auris and Prius models are most at risk, with the damage potentially writing off the cars.
One victim told KentOnline her petrol Honda Jazz was targeted while parked overnight in a side street in Sandgate, near Folkestone.
“When I got in the car started but just made this really loud engine noise - underneath the car there were wires dangling.
“It seems that just because the theft does not take place by someone entering a house, the police don’t seem to be concerned.
“The insurance companies don’t help as there isn’t a second party to pay out and so people are losing money, losing their cars after falling victim to crime.
“Perhaps there should be more CCTV to help monitor the streets and act as a deterrent.
“Because my car was deemed as a write-off I have now lost my no claims for a theft that wasn’t my fault.”
She added another Honda Jazz parked on the same road was hit the same night in October.
Meanwhile detectives are also investigating six thefts reported in Swanley and New Ash Green since the start of November.
Police also reported a year-on-year increase in the number of emissions devices being stolen last autumn.
Chief Inspector Lara Connor of Kent Police’s Partnerships and Communities Department said: “The county has experienced a significant increase in catalytic converter thefts over the last financial year.
“As a result, we pro-actively patrolled areas targeted by thieves and regularly issue crime prevention advice to residents in a bid to prevent thefts.
“We also work closely with scrap metal dealers and make regular checks with them to trace people selling stolen metal and identify those dealerships that may be operating illegally.
She added owners can take extra measures to secure the devices and park in a garage or on a busy street.