Drivers in Dartford are being advised to take steps to protect their cars after a spate of catalytic converter thefts.

Since August there have been 68 reported or attempted thefts in Dartford and Sevenoaks, and 173 across Kent as a whole.

In a car's exhaust system, catalytic converters clean up harmful gases before they exit the exhaust pipe. They are made of valuable metals which can be sold on for high prices.

Detective Superintendent Mark Weller of Kent Police said: "Vehicle crime can have a big impact on victims as repairs can be costly and time spent without a vehicle can make it difficult for victims to get to work, drop their children off at school and generally go about their daily business.

"We are therefore very keen to make motorists aware of the recent increase in catalytic converter thefts and ask that they take steps to protect their vehicles from opportunistic thieves.

"Kent Police is committed to tackling this type of crime and we therefore encourage residents to be vigilant and report anything to us straight away, including anybody seen acting suspiciously around vehicles, while we seek to identify those people responsible for these thefts.

"As well as reviewing CCTV footage we are also working closely with partners including car park operators to ensure vehicles are protected as much as possible.

"We are also engaging with scrap metal dealers to make it easier to trace sellers of stolen metal and also identify any dealers who may be operating illegally."

On November 5, a 22-year-old man from east London was arrested on suspicion of stealing catalytic converters from multiple victims across the county and released on bail pending further enquiries.

Catalytic converters are located in a box on the exhaust pipe under a car. To steal it, thieves slide under the car and use high-powered cutting tools to detach the box from the pipes around.

For the first six months of 2019, the number of thefts of catalytic converters jumped to 2,894, compared to 1,674 thefts for all of 2018.