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Masked gang of four suspected of stealing catalytic converters from five vehicles in Stortford in a day

Police believe a gang of four men are targeting vehicles in Bishop's Stortford for their catalytic converters.

Five thefts reported on one day earlier this month has prompted police to warn motorists to be on the look-out for the masked quartet, who were spotted in a black Audi with no number plates.

Thieves target the vehicle exhaust emission devices because of their valuable metal content.

PC Derek Lewin, of Bishop's Stortford and Sawbridgeworth police's Safer Neighbourhood Team, said a resident of Crown Terrace at Hockerill was woken in the early hours of Thursday August 12 and watched as the gang targeted his car.

"The victim saw his vehicle jacked up and they proceeded to take the catalytic converter," he said. "There were four suspects: one person stayed in the car while three got out of the car. Their vehicle was a black Audi A1 with no number plates. Two men were described as black and two white. All were dressed in dark clothing and had their faces covered."

A spokeswoman for Hertfordshire Constabulary said: "Police attended the area after someone reported they had just witnessed a cat con being stolen from a Volkswagen in the car park. When officers arrived, another member of the public approached them to report that the cat con had also been stolen from their vehicle, a Honda."

Police received another report of a cat con theft from a blue Toyota Auris in the same location on the same night.

A blue Toyota Prius in Dimsdale Crescent was targeted at around 11.40pm that night (Thu Aug 12). PC Lewin said: "The victim was woken by a noise outside and looked out to see a dark car parked in the middle of the road. One male was seen under the car with a jack. The victim reported seeing four males wearing gloves and balaclavas, so it looks like it's the same people and that these incidents are linked."

Meanwhile, the owner of a silver Mazda MX5 started his car in Snowdrop Close, Bishop's Gate, at 6.45am that same Thursday and found it was making a strange noise. The cat con had been removed since 4pm that Tuesday (Aug 10).

Police are reminding drivers they can get their catalytic converters security-marked free to help protect their vehicles, as part of Operation Feline.

Insp Nicki Dean, from the Herts force's crime reduction unit, said: "Thieves particularly target specific hybrid models, such as the pre-2008 Honda Jazz, Toyota Prius (2004-16) and Toyota Arius (2012-18).

"We're still working with local garages to offer free security marking. So far we've marked close to 1,000 vehicles since the launch of Operation Feline in 2020," she said.

"We would also urge the public to follow our advice, remain vigilant and report incidents of suspected catalytic converter theft, particularly where people are trying to get under cars in car parks or on roads. If you see this happening, please call 999 immediately."

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