What do you think catches a thief's eye when they walk past your car: your satnav? Your impressive CD collection? The truth is not so flashy, because they are far more likely to have their eye on your catalytic converter. It's part of the car which filters some of the pollutants out of your emissions, which doesn't sound particularly useful in the second hand market.
So why are the thieves after it, and how can you protect yourself.
SpikeThe trend emerged in a BBC investigation, which revealed that thefts of catalytic converters had more than doubled in three years, and hit 25,000 between 2010 and the first half of 2013. It also saw specific spikes in Bedfordshire and South Yorkshire - where thefts have increased tenfold during this time - and Cheshire, Greater Manchester and Leicestershire where they almost tripled.
They added that 4x4's and vans were particularly at risk because their larger wheels make them easier to crawl underneath,
Why?The reason why catalytic converters are attractive is that they contain precious metals including platinum and palladium, which can be worth £100 or more as scrap. Since 1 October it has been illegal to sell these as scrap, but the investigation revealed that many are sent overseas.
The other problem is that the thieves are also likely to cause damage in the process of taking the catalytic converter, which could make driving dangerous, so if you are targeted you will need to take your car in for inspection anyway.
Protect yourselfThere are some things you can do to protect yourself against thieves. If you drive a vulnerable 4x4 then when you park in a car park, it's worth making an effort to park near cars with lower ground clearance, as it will be more effort for the thieves to single you out.
Whatever you drive, it's worth parking in well lit areas, ideally ones which are covered by CCTV, to put thieves off.
And if you are at particular risk it's worth considering having your catalytic converter welded on. Most are bolted on, so a bit of welding would be enough to deter most crooks.