Scrap metal thieves rip out parts from charity's vans

A CHARITY has been targeted by scrap metal thieves in a spate of thefts of high-value catalytic converters.

Gangs are ripping out the exhaust parts from underneath vans and other large vehicles as they seek to cash in on the resale value for scrap.

The trend is increasing across the UK as catalytic converters contain small amounts of platinum making them particularly valuable.

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Members of the Rural and Urban Training Scheme (RUTS) arrived at their Newtongrange base last week to find three of their vans disabled by the theft.

They had been parked overnight in the Scottish Mining Museum's car park and, despite having CCTV, the only relevant images show two men stalking the area for potential vehicles.

Project manager Caroline Pearson said: "I think they had in mind what they were going to do, they must have come with the tools.

"Nothing else was stolen and they left the exhaust pipes lying beside each van.

"They cost about 400 each to replace and we've got the insurance excess as well.

"It looks like they hacked through with saws to remove them.

"I think it's becoming a bit of a trend, when we phoned to get replacement ones they said a van hire firm in Newbridge also had two stolen that day."

Although the incident threatened to derail the charity's work, staff managed to find alternative transport to carry on their daily tasks, but stressed the need to get the vans back up and running.

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The organisation helps teenagers with learning disabilities and those disaffected with education enjoy outdoor pursuits.

Ms Pearson said: "I don't think it could have been anyone local because everyone here knows we're a charity. We'll have to look into ways of making the parking more secure."

It is understood large vehicles like vans are targeted because the catalytic converter - which makes exhaust fumes less toxic - is larger than in a car.

They are higher off the ground, meaning it is easier for the thieves to get underneath and remove the items.

A police spokeswoman said: "It is not a prolific problem by any means, but anecdotally it does happen fairly regularly and that is possibly because they have a small amount of platinum in them."

Nationwide the problem is such that firms sell locks for catalytic converters.

Police in other parts of the UK have urged vehicle owners to keep a close eye on their vehicles, and even put security markings on the converters so scrap yards know not to accept them.

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