Catalytic converter thefts have increased in Watford (photo credit Getty Images).

Catalytic converter thefts have skyrocketed in Hertfordshire with Hertsmere confirmed as the worst hit area by far.

Latest data revealed there were 233 cases in the borough between October 2020 and September 2021, compared to just five in the same period for 2017/18.

The intervening years saw jumps to 60 and 121.

Watford was the second worst with 147, compared to 105, 56 and nine in the previous years, while Three Rivers jumped from eight in 2017/18 to 102 this year.

Catalytic converter thefts in Hertfordshire.

The problem has been rising across the UK for several years due to price rises of the converters’ precious metals.

Toyota Prius, Toyota Auris and Honda Jazz are the most commonly hit models, according to research by Which?, thought to be because they are hybrids with less corroded converters.

Overall in Herts there were 1,003 thefts this year compared to 736 in 2019/20 – a 36 per cent rise – and just 59 cases in 2017/18.

It is unknown how many convictions there have been.

Read more:

  • ​Three sentenced for catalytic converter theft in Watford
  • WATCH: Thieves steal catalytic converter from car

Despite the figures, chief inspector Robin Winder said police initiatives are having an impact as there has been a “significant fall” in these types of crimes in recent months.

The force has focused resources on combating the issue and have been working with scrap dealers to ensure they are not buying stolen units while also making them more difficult to sell.

Operation Feline, launched last year, is a campaign helping drivers protect their vehicles by working with local garages to offer free converter marking.

CI Winder said: “We are also targeting the offenders using a range of covert tactics to make Hertfordshire a hostile environment for thieves to operate.

Thieves caught on CCTV stealing a converter from a car in Watford.

“There are steps that drivers can take to secure their vehicle and deter thieves from targeting the catalytic converters.”

More details can be found on the force’s website.

He added: “Thieves need to use power tools to remove the units so they will make a lot of noise when doing so.

“Please stay vigilant and report any suspicious activity.”

This summer three neighbours from Liverpool were sentenced for a “planned operation” targeting £1,000 converters at the Toyota garage in Ascot Road, Watford.

Two were jailed for 18 months while the other was given a suspended nine-month sentence.