Gardaí are concerned at a recent rise in thefts of catalytic converters from vehicles — the latest of which were stolen in broad daylight from busy car parks in Co Cork.
A meeting of the Cork County Joint Policing Committee yesterday heard senior gardaí say the gang behind the thefts are expert mechanics and can quickly remove the costly device from an engine compartment.
It isn’t known if they are smuggling the catalytic converters out of the country for resale abroad, or taking them apart and stripping out valuable titanium which they then sell off.
There has been a spate of such thefts in Dublin, Limerick and Tipperary. Now, the first cases have been reported in Co Cork.
Chief Superintendent Gerard Dillane — who is in charge of policing the Cork North Garda Division — said that SUVs (Sports Utility Vehicles) had been targeted because the thieves could get in underneath them more easily than cars to remove the catalytic converters.
The gang’s latest successful haul of catalytic converters came from SUVs which were parked in the Tesco car park and Aldi distribution centre in Mitchelstown last Thursday.
Gardaí are anxious to hear from anybody who may have seen people acting suspiciously around such vehicles between 4pm and 5.30pm that day.
Chief Supt Dillane said that two years ago during night-time raids, thieves removed the converters from cars which were for sale at garages in the Mallow area.
But he added this was the first time they’d been so brazen to have robbed them from parked cars in busy areas during daylight.
It is believed the gang are so adept at what they do it may have taken no more than two or three minutes to remove the device.
According to experts in the motor trade catalytic converters, which are designed to reduce carbon emissions, can cost anything from €1,000 to €2,000 to replace on an SUV.
“The vehicle will still start if the catalytic converter is removed. But the noise will be deafening. It’s like having a broken exhaust. They are costly to replace on some makes and you will need them because otherwise you won’t pass an emissions test at your NCT,” an experienced mechanic said.
Chief Supt Tom Hayes, who is the most senior policeman in West Cork, told Jerry Buttimer TD that he hadn’t as of yet come across any such cases in his region.
However, he added that with the gang’s obvious expertise he would expect an increase in such thefts.
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