Commercial vehicle insurance providers are warning van drivers in the North East to keep their vehicles under strong surveillance as thieves launch a crime spree on vehicle exhausts.
As the insurance companies report a spate of claims, police officers from Cleveland Police say thieves may be stealing exhaust systems from vehicles in the area and selling them in London and the South East. They think unscrupulous people looking to avoid penalty charges from the London Emission Zone compliance scheme are buying the stolen parts.
Brian Callendar, owner of Stockton Tees Valley Customs, is the latest victim of the crime spree. His paint and bodywork premises were broken into this week and the exhaust systems from two Mercedes sprinter vans were stolen. The catalytic converters on the vans had special filters which mean the vehicles could travel in the London Emission Zone without penalty and Brian who has been in the business for 25 years is convinced this is why his premises were targeted.
He said: “It seems like they are going into compounds where there’s a lot of vehicles and taking the same part. I’ve heard of a business which had 17 of them taken. I don’t think it’s for the metal value, I think it’s because the DPF particle filter allows them to be driven in London. They may well be pinching them off vehicles in the north for the market down there. The lads who repaired my vehicles for me said they have had quite a few in recently, all with the same part missing. I don’t think it’s specifically Mercs – it’s just anything with these converters on.”
A spokesman for the Cleveland Police admitted that three premises had suffered similar break-ins over the last few days and enquiries were proceeding.