Although motor vehicle theft (including theft from motor vehicles) appears to be on the decrease according to published statistics, these crimes still occur to all commercial vehicle (van) users in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Why are vans targeted by thieves?
There used to be a time where thieves broke into vans used by tradesmen for the purposes of stealing any expensive equipment and tools within them, which they could easily carry away and sell on the second-hand market for cash.
But these days, thieves are more interested in the vans themselves rather than the contents within them. Vans such as the Ford Transit make easy pickings for criminals because they are such a mass-produced commercial vehicle, that it is easy to steal the van, strip the parts off it and subsequently sell those stripped parts on.
There is also the value of the metal in any remaining items such as the body and shell of the van which the more organised crime gangs would willingly cut up the scrap metal and weigh it in for cash.
Mercedes-Benz vans a hot favourite for thieves
All over Britain, organised gangs are targeting Mercedes-Benz vans for their valuable catalytic converters. The reason why thieves steal catalytic converters is because of the high values of platinum, rhodium, palladium and similar precious metals which are used to reduce exhaust emissions from engines. The cost of replacing catalytic converters in Mercedes-Benz vans can be close to £2,000.
Mercedes-Benz vans are a particularly high catalytic converter theft target because they have a high ground clearance, which makes it easier to remove those exhaust components than from other vans with lower ground clearances.
Cracking down on catalytic converter theft
The problem with catalytic converter theft is that there is actually no way of proving that such parts being sold on are stolen, even if the suspected thieves have been caught red-handed with them, because they are just a generic exhaust part with no serial numbers or other unique, identifiable markings.
Since September 2012, Mercedes-Benz have worked closely with the SMMT (Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders) to ensure that all new commercial vehicles they produce have security etches on exhaust components, and fitting windscreen stickers warning any would-be thieves that the catalytic converter has been security marked.
A Mercedes-Benz van dealer in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, has taken this a step further. Van specialists Hughes of Aylesbury have recently teamed up with Thames Valley Police in an effort to tackle this growing problem for existing van owners that purchased their vans before September 2012.
The dealer is offering to etch the catalytic converters of those vans free of charge, and in addition spray the unit with UV-tagged forensic paint.
Other ways to prevent catalytic converter theft
There are numerous products on the market which can help deter and prevent the theft of such valuable exhaust system components. Van owners can have items such as anti-theft bolts, Catloc advanced exhaust protection systems, and even the ProCatt catalytic converter security alarm system.