POLICE have seized 33 catalytic converters and taken away away nine bags of evidence after visiting a scrap metal dealer in Dudley as part of a crackdown on car criminals.

Officers have not revealed which scrap metal dealer was targeted but have said the bags of evidence seized included broken down catalytic converters.

The devices, which are fitted to a vehicle’s exhaust pipe to reduce the level of harmful pollutants emitted, have become a target for and are being broken by criminals, West Midlands Police, have said, so they can access the precious metals inside including palladium, rhodium and platinum.

A spokesman for the force said: "Demand for these materials has intensified due to the pandemic's impact on mining and the economic toll of lockdown, increasing the value of these metals."

As well as targeting rogue dealers as part of Operation Goldiron, a multi-agency week of action carried out across the country, officers in Dudley have sent information out to communities to raise awareness of the issue and upped patrols as the West Midlands has seen a sharp increase in catalytic converter thefts along with police forces areas across the country.

Detective Superintendent Scott Griffiths, force lead for Operation Goldiron, said: “This is an expensive and inconvenient crime, which can result in thousands of pounds worth of damage in replacement parts for the victim.

"We are taking this growing problem very seriously and are determined to help stop this crime surge.

“We intensified our efforts to tackle catalytic converter thefts during the national week of action, targeting groups who we suspect are behind a large number of these thefts and working with partner agencies and police forces across the UK to tackle criminal activity."

Operation Goldiron was led by the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) and coordinated by British Transport Police (BTP) and the Government Agency Intelligence Network (GAIN) and, also involved help from Environment Agency, BT Openreach, West Midlands Fire Service and Trading Standards.

Det Supt Griffiths said: "During the week, we gained valuable intelligence that will help us combat the issues going forward. We also continue to gather intel on locations and suspects involved in the handling of stolen catalytic converters and chop shops.

“Additionally, we are helping the national roll-out of forensic marking of catalytic converters, making it more difficult for thieves to sell the devices on.”