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A pile of catalytic converters. Thieves in Australia are increasingly targeting the converters, amid a surge in prices of precious metals.JEENAH MOON/The New York Times News Service

Police in South Australia urged drivers on Wednesday to step up efforts to protect their cars, as thieves target the catalytic converters that scrub exhaust emissions, amid a surge in prices of precious metals.

The converters, which strip particulate matter from emissions, contain high volumes of the precious metals platinum and palladium, whose prices touched records this year.

“Thefts have occurred in residential driveways, public carparks and on main roads with public presence not seeming to deter offenders,” state police said in a statement, adding that the devices were then sold on the secondhand market.

After several arrests, they are encouraging owners to mark or engrave the devices with the vehicle identification number, as well as making them harder to remove, for instance by welding in the retaining bolts.

Other measures include parking in locked or well-lit areas, near walls or fences with the car bonnet facing a solid object to discourage access to the converter.

Prices of platinum are up 38 per cent from a year ago at US$1,173 an ounce, while palladium is up 43 per cent at US$2,758 an ounce.

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