A wave of catalytic converter thefts in the Epsom area is continuing apace with several more cars targeted by thieves on Saturday (February 1).

Surrey Police issued another stark warning for residents to protect their vehicles and said they had identified three men inside a car "acting suspiciously" in connection to the latest crimes.

"We’re asking anyone who saw a silver Toyota Corolla with a registration ending CLJ acting suspiciously in Epsom on Saturday to contact us," a spokesperson for Surrey Police said.

There were three men inside the vehicle who were seen in the area at the time the thefts were reported, they added.

Surrey Comet: Louise TaylorLouise Taylor

Cars including the Toyota Yaris and Auris models were targeted in the Hobbledown car park on Ruxley Lane, the Ashley Centre car park, and Hook Road car park on Saturday.

Their catalytic converters — components attached to car exhausts that help regulate emissions of the vehicle — were cut off and stolen.

The components are often made using alloys that include precious metals such as platinum, palladium and rhodium.

Police said that five catalytic converters were stolen between 09:50am and 12:50pm at those locations.

One of the people whose vehicle was targeted by the thieves spoke with the Comet about what the experience was like.

Epsom resident Louise Taylor parked her car in Hook Road car park and only found out it had been hit by the thieves after starting the engine:

"I was parked on the second floor of the multi-story on Hook Road.

"I came back to the car, started it up and thought it was a very loud motorbike somewhere," she told the Comet. "I didn't realize it was me."

Louise added that her "brand new" Toyoto Yaris was diagnosed after the break-down service arrived.

"I backed out, started to go down the slope, and then realized it was my car making all that noise.

"I got home and called the recovery vehicle...the guy said straight away 'I know what your problem is — someone has stolen your catalytic converter'.

"He showed me underneath where the clean cuts were. He said they can do it in about two minutes with an angle grinder," she said.

"I just wanted to alert people. But there's not a lot you can do.

"It's come at the worst time for me personally," Louise, who had a family funeral to attend when she spoke with the Comet, reflected.

Surrey Police are issuing advice for residents on how to keep their vehicles protected as they continue to investigate the thefts:

  • Park in as well-lit areas where possible.
  • Park close to building entrances or the nearest road in public car parks. This leaves your vehicle in a location where many people can see it.
  • If you have a garage use it and keep it locked.
  • Consider CCTV if your vehicle is parked on your driveway or a RING-type device.
  • Adjust the security system on your car or have one installed that will activate upon vibration, such as those produced by a saw.
  • Install a catalytic converter-specific security device, such as ‘ARMACAT’ or ‘CATLOC’ - https://blog.toyota.co.uk/catalytic-converter-theft-how-to-protect-your-car
  • Consider ID Etching - Etching a catalytic converter with a serial number will help police track a stolen converter and overtly advertising that a vehicle is protected by property marking may also deter offenders as it will potentially reduce the opportunities for selling on the converters at reputable scrap metal dealers. More information on ID etching can be found at www.retainagroup.co.uk
  • Consider welded bolts - If a catalytic converter is a ‘bolt on’ it is possible to have the bolts welded shut. This is only a deterrent to the lowest grade of catalytic converter thief working with a wrench but may still be enough of a deterrent to help prevent a theft.
  • Report suspicious activity to the Police. Obtain as much information as possible, including any vehicle registrations.