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Thieves slice off catalytic converters

PUBLISHED: 16:39 24 September 2008 | UPDATED: 15:21 25 August 2010

SOARING metal prices have led to a surge in thefts in south-east London. Bexley and Greenwich councils have teamed up with the police and Gallions Housing Association after £10,000 worth of metal was stolen from eight of the association s lifts in July.

SOARING metal prices have led to a surge in thefts in south-east London.

Bexley and Greenwich councils have teamed up with the police and Gallions Housing Association after £10,000 worth of metal was stolen from eight of the association's lifts in July.

The theft follows Bexley council losing £25,000 worth of drain covers in two months this summer.

The alliance aims to encourage the public to report suspected metal thefts and to root-out unscrupulous dealers who buy stolen scrap metal.

Michael Longford, joint owner of Sydenham Metals, in Kangley Bridge Road, Sydenham, says he can not always tell when materials have been stolen.

He said: "We don't buy anything stolen. When you get 12 to 15-year-olds pushing wheelie-bins full of metal it's obvious it's nicked from somewhere.

"We also get all the types of traders coming in. It's hard for us to tell but 90 per cent of the time it's genuine."

Mr Longford will buy 10kg of copper piping for as much as £20 whilst precious metals such as rhodium, which has risen in value by 600 per cent in two years, fetch a lot more.

As such, motorists have also fallen victim to thieves targeting catalytic converters from the undersides of cars.

The units found on the underside of cars can cost £1,000 and contain a few grams of the precious metals platinum, palladium, and rhodium.

Bromley police reported that 83 units, worth £100 in scrap metal, were reported stolen last year, compared to just three the year before.

The dramatic rise in thefts has mainly affected owners of high-clearance vehicles with units that can be removed in minutes with an angle grinder.

A Bromley police spokesman said: "Thieves are known to strike in broad daylight, in busy areas. Vehicles most at risk are those that have high clearance such as SUVs.

If you suspect someone of stealing metals in your neighbourhood, call Bromley police on 01689 891212, Bexley police on 020 8301 1212, or Greenwich police on 020 8855 1212.

jules.cooper@archant.co.uk

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