CATALYTIC converter theft reports increased by almost 6,000 per cent over the past five years, according to Dorset Police.

A recent surge in the crime saw reports to the force in the first three months of this year exceed the total of 102 in the 12 months to March 2020.

While Dorset Police said the theft of the vehicle component has "serious implications for the victims", a senior officer said the help from the public is needed to catch the culprits.

Superintendent Heather Dixey, of Dorset Police, said there had been a "noticeable increase" in catalytic converter thefts since January 2021 with it taking "under a minute" to remove one from a vehicle using cordless power tools and a car jack.

"These crimes are having serious implications for the victims," said Superintendent Dixey.

"It is not only financially disruptive, but also impacts on the victim’s ability to get on with their daily life as for many a vehicle is essential."

"There is a national operation in relation to this crime and Dorset Police works together with other forces to target gangs who are active across the country.

"The force also continues to work with a multi-agency national problem-solving group to ensure that we are aware of what is happening in other parts of the country and to continue to find new and innovative ways to catch criminals.

Bournemouth Echo: Superintendent DixeySuperintendent Dixey

"During a recent week of action officers across the county visited scrap dealers to identify any stolen property or traders working without a licence. In addition, local officers work alongside partner agencies and offer crime prevention advice to businesses and car parks who may be a target of these types of thefts."

Catalytic converters contain precious metals such as platinum, palladium and rhodium.

Both Dorset Police and the AA said there has recently been a substantial increase in their value.

Jack Cousens, head of roads policy for the AA, said; “The number of stolen catalytic converters continues to rise, and the near 6,000 per cent increase of their theft in Dorset is staggering."

Alongside the value of the precious metal leading to sales to scrap dealers, Mr Cousens said there was "robbing Peter to help Paul", with stolen catalytic converters sold online to other victims who struggle to afford the repairs from having theirs taken.

In a plea to residents, Superintendent Dixey said: "It is important to stress that we need the public’s help to combat this crime.

"Please report any suspicious activity or information that might help with intelligence gathering."