Hornchurch catalytic converter thefts ground Age Concern Havering’s minibuses - again

A Hornchurch charity is counting the cost after metal thieves made off with the catalytic converters from two of its minibuses – for the third time in 18 months.

Age Concern Havering, based in North Street, has had to pay thousands of pounds to rent replacement buses from the council and pay its insurance excesses.

“It just shows what low people there are in the community – to steal from charities that try and do a good service,” said day centre manager Stuart Robinson.

“The same thing happened last June, and about three months before that, so we decided to move the buses from Havering College to our site and have CCTV put in – but even that hasn’t stopped them.

“So now we’ve made an arrangement to have the buses parked in a secure site with Havering Council.”

The minibuses are used to transport elderly people to and from Paines Brook Day Centre, Paines Brook Way. Mr Robinson said some people rely on the buses as their only means of getting out and about.

The catalytic converters were taken overnight on June 12th-13th from Hopwa House, Inskip Drive.

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The vehicle parts are attractive to thieves because they contain tiny quantities of platinum.

But the precious metal in a catalytic converter occurs in such small quantities and is so difficult to extract that the spoils would have been virtually worthless.

Andrew Howard, head of road safety at the AA, said a typical catalytic converter would only contain about a gram of the precious metal – and even that would have to be extracted through a costly chemical process only available in Eastern Europe.

“It’s a fairly expensive operation. It’s not done by a gentle scrape with a pocket knife,” he said.

Scrap thieves had already struck in the same area just days before Age Concern was targeted.

A quantity of lead was taken from the roof of St George’s Hospital, Hornchurch, some time between June 8th and 11th.

Anyone with information about either incident is asked to call the police on 101.