A crime gang probe has seen thefts of catalytic converters slashed by more than half, new figures reveal.
The devices, which can cost up to £1,000 to replace, contain precious metals such as platinum and gold so are often targeted by gangs who simply saw them off cars.
But a long-term operation by Northants Police has collected intelligence on the gangs to find out when they target certain areas which has led to a huge drop in the number of thefts.
There were 133 thefts reported across Northants last year – the lowest figure since 2010 and a drop of 53 per cent on the previous year.
Chief inspector Tom Thompson said: “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, Northants had 123 catalytic converter thefts and the figure rose to 317 in 2012.
Vans, pick-up trucks, people carriers, off-road vehicles and hatchback cars are most commonly targeted.
Driver Will Vandenbrink, who had his catalytic converter stolen last year, has had his device marked so it can be tracked.
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.”