A NATIONAL charity has launched a campaign that aims to cut the number of catalytic converters being stolen from cars in Hampshire.

People who know or suspect someone of being involved in the lucrative crime are being encouraged to contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111, where messages can be left anonymously.

Catalytic converters clean gases before they emerge from the vehicle's exhaust pipe.

They contain precious metals such as rhodium and palladium, which are often more expensive than gold and mean the devices can fetch more than £500 on the black market.

Almost 500 converters were reported stolen in Hampshire between October 2020 and last month.

Emily van der Lely, regional manager of Crimestoppers, said: "With an increase in people working from home or being furloughed because of the pandemic, more cars are parked in driveways or on the street during the day.

"There have been cases where criminals have threatened victims who tried to confront them and some drivers have been repeatedly targeted.

“We know it can be difficult to speak up about crime, especially if it’s about someone you know.

"Please remember you can speak to Crimestoppers 100% anonymously and you will be doing the right thing, to keep your community safe from crime.

"Since our charity started 33 years ago thousands of people have contacted us daily with information."

The week-long campaign is being backed by Neighbourhood Watch Network.

The organisation's chief executive, John Hayward-Cripps, said: “With catalytic converter thefts on the rise it is important we remain vigilant about where we park our cars and what is going on around us.

"We encourage you to park in busy, well-lit areas or areas with CCTV coverage.

"It can take as little as 60 seconds for thieves to steal a catalytic converter, so keep an eye out for your neighbour’s vehicles and if you suspect anything suspicious report it to Crimestoppers anonymously.”

Thieves are continuing to occur in Southampton and parts of the New Forest.

One woman posting on social media said: "To the scum who cut the catalytic converter out of my mum's car - go get a job instead of ruining other people's property."