Fewer catalytic converters were stolen in Northamptonshire last year compared to 2013, according to new figures.
Catalytic converters, which cost between £500 and £1,000 to replace and contain precious metals, are often targeted by criminal gangs which tour the country look to steal the devices from vehicles.
To tackle the problem, Northamptonshire Police has spent several years collecting intelligence on the gangs, uncovering when they target certain areas.
Subsequent work to prevent thefts has led to a significant drop in incidents.
In 2014, there were 133 thefts reported across the county – the lowest figure since 2010 and a drop of 53 per cent on the previous year.
Chief Inspector Tom Thompson said: “We’ve had problems in the past with organised crime gangs coming into the county and spending two or three days stealing these items.
“We’ve reduced the number by more than 50 per cent in the last year, so we’re almost returning to the levels we saw in 2009, which is a great success.”
In 2010, Northamptonshire had 123 catalytic converter thefts. The figure rose to 317 in 2012 but has now dropped significantly.
The most targeted vehicles are vans, pick-up trucks, people carriers, off-road vehicles and hatchback cars.
Wellingborough motorist, Will Vandenbrink, who had the catalytic converter stolen from his vehicle last year, is among the county’s motorists who have had their catalytic converters specially marked to prevent further thefts.
He said: “I got into the car on Monday morning to go to work and when I started it, it sounded like a tractor. The catalytic converter had been sawn right off.
“I thought they only targeted commercial vehicles, I never thought for a minute they would have a go at my car.
“So it’s definitely a good idea to get them marked.”
For information on how to prevent catalytic converter thefts, visit www.northants.police.uk/files/linked/crime-prevention/Protect%20your%20Catalytic%20Converter.pdf