CATALYTIC converters have been stolen from 20 vehicles in Poole since the beginning of the year, according to police.

The majority of these thefts, in-line with a worrying national trend, have been from Mercedes Sprinter vans.

Some reports suggest these vans are being targeted as it is much easier to remove the convertors from them, compared with other commercial vehicles.

Dorset Police say the 20 vehicles were parked at Sterte, Willis and Nuffield industrial estates and in Hamworthy, Bourne Valley and Rossmore. Patrols will now be stepped-up in these areas.

Criminals steal the converters, leaving owners facing repair bills up to £2,000, because they contain precious metals such as Platinum, Palladium and Rhodium.

Deputy Neighbourhood Inspector David Parr confirmed: “The majority of the vans targeted were Mercedes Sprinter vehicles. Although this is a popular van, we believe these vehicles are being specifically targeted by offenders.

“Investigations have revealed this type of theft is not exclusive to Poole and is also happening in other parts of the county.

“I would like to remind all van owners to remain vigilant and take some simple crime prevention steps to avoid becoming a victim.

“There are reasonably-priced locking devices out there that can be bought and fitted to prevent this crime.

“I urge anyone with information about those responsible for these thefts to contact Dorset Police in confidence.”