DETECTIVES are investigating a spate of catalytic converter thefts across Hampshire.
Twenty vehicles have had the pollution- busting devices prised off in just six weeks.
Det Insp Martin Myers, from Eastleigh CID, said the precious metals such as platinum, palladium and rhodium are sold to scrap metal merchants for hundreds of pounds.
The converters are the latest to be targeted by metal thieves who have struck across the south.
Yesterday the Daily Echo revealed that commuters had suffered an extra 1,600 train delays in the region in just ten months after thieves stole copper cabling from railway signalling boxes.
And last month we reported how ten sets of metal gates had been stolen from driveways across Southampton.
Det Insp Myers said: “The prices of metals have gone through the roof, with the metal going abroad to places such as Latvia, Poland and China.”
Larger cars and 4x4s have been targeted by thieves who use saws to remove the converters in as little as 30 seconds.
Police say organised gangs could be behind the spree but could not rule out opportunists looking to make easy money.
The latest theft reported was from a Peugeot 406 in Southampton Road, Eastleigh.
Police believe bigger vehicles are especially at risk because they are high off the ground and easier for thieves to slide underneath.
Anyone with information can call their local police on 101 mentioning Operation Wellington or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.