A PIONEERING new project which plans to fit cars with a unique security tool which catches thieves red handed is being piloted in the area.

Officers from Northumbria Police’s crime prevention team devised the innovative scheme, which will see SmartWater security fitted on a range of vehicles to help the North East buck the growing national trend of catalytic converter thefts.

A number of garages have already signed up to the scheme, including Jardine Toyota in Sunderland.

The branch have already splashed out on a haul of the forensic water to keep their cars secure and were last week visited by Linda Nelson, from the Designing Out Crime team who trained them up on how to fit and scan for the devices.

Mrs Nelson said: “Thankfully car thefts are decreasing and we see nowhere near the levels we used to historically. But, unfortunately catalytic converter thefts are on the rise nationally, and in our force area they are up 84 per cent in the last year.*

“The good news is that these thefts are completely preventable and there are a number of ways you can make sure your car stays safe – from keeping it locked and secure to fitting it with tracking devices. SmartWater is just another tool in our armour which helps us fight theft.

“SmartWater is an incredibly effective way of preventing theft. “As a brand it carries the deterrent – not just the phrase forensic marking. Most thieves will avoid taking something which can be easily identified as stolen, therefore implicating them as having committed an offence.

“We daub cars with the forensic liquid, which can withstand heat of up to 600 degrees, and each has a unique code which allows it to be traced back to the owner. This allows garages or scrapyard dealers to spot a stolen item and give us a call.”

So far a string of garages have already signed up to the scheme, including Walkerville Garage on Shields Road, JJ Auto Services on Cecil Court and Jarrow MOT Centre.

It is hoped the free service will soon be offered by a string of other local garages as it allows mechanics and other industry professionals to quickly identify any converters or vehicle parts which may have been stolen – and help return them to their owners.

To report suspicious activity or report a theft, call 101or 999 in an emergency.