Watford is one of three areas across Hertfordshire to have seen an increase in the number of thefts of catalytic converters.

Hertfordshire Constabulary says that in the last two weeks of January it has seen “significant increases” of the stolen devices in Watford, Hertsmere and Broxbourne.

The force revealed that 14 catalytic converters had been stolen in the town. Fifteen had been stolen in Hertsmere and 11 were targeted in Broxbourne.

Police say thieves have been targeting the devices, which are fitted to vehicle exhaust systems, on specific models – mainly Toyota Prius and Auris’.

They are targeted because of the precious metals they contain.

Last year Steven Eagell Toyota garage in Ascot Road, Croxley Green said it is struggling to deal with the number of people coming in for replacements of stolen catalytic converters.

A Toyota spokesperson said: “Our priority is our customers and we are working hard to try to support them against the background of these distressing crimes.

“We have also introduced, at a reduced price, a Catloc device, which can help to deter theft and we are taking further action to ensure the price of fitting a replacement catalytic converter at a Toyota approved service centre is minimised, as well as exploring other technical possibilities which may help such as tilt sensors.”

The county’s police force is warning drivers and businesses to be vigilant of the thefts.

Inspector Nicola Dean, from Hertfordshire Constabulary’s Crime Reduction Unit said: “Thieves have been targeting specific models and we will be writing to owners of pre 2008 Honda Jazz models, Toyota Prius (2004 to 2016 inclusive) and Toyota Arius (2012 to 2018 inclusive), to offer free catalytic converter marking. Anyone else who would like to arrange free catalytic convertor marking can contact Crime Prevention Officer Darren Cowell on Darren.cowell@herts.pnn.police.uk or by calling 01707 354668.

“Stealing these units is not easy as offenders need to get under or jack up a vehicle and would need to use noisy power tools. We urge the public to remain vigilant and report incidents of suspected catalytic converter theft, particularly where people are trying to get under cars in public car parks or on public roads. If you see this happening, please call 999 immediately.”