THIEVES are targeting vans across the county, stealing catalytic converters and causing thousands of pounds in damage.
A warning has been issued to owners of Mercedes-Benz Sprinter vans in particular, after a spate of thefts over the past month.
Catalytic converters contain valuable precious metals, which thieves try to sell to scrap metal dealers or abroad.
Among the victims were Debbie and Dave White, who own Home Choice carpets in Millstrood Road, Whitstable.
Their van was targeted for the second time between 10.45pm on Thursday, January 17, and 8am on Saturday, January 19.
She said: "It happened in April last year too. And we're not on our own – several businesses around here have been affected.
"It's going to cost us £3,200 to fix. The window was also broken, so that has to be replaced.
"And it pushes up our insurance policy. We'll also have to pay for extra security.
"It's hard on us as a small, family-run business. At the moment, we can't afford these extra costs."
Kent Police works with scrap metal dealers to make it easier to trace sellers of stolen metal and dealers who operate illegally.
Chief Inspector Lee Russell offered advice to motorists to reduce the risk of their vehicles being targeted.
He said: "Fitting a catalytic converter clamp or security cage can help deter thieves.
"I would also encourage people to security-mark and register the metal shell of the converter so that, if it is stolen, it will be easier to trace it back to your vehicle if it is recovered.
"We will investigate all reports and do all we can to identify the offenders and bring them to justice.
"I would urge anyone with information about any of the incidents to contact Kent Police by calling 101."
For more information visit www.kent.police.uk/advice/personal/your_guide/your_guide.html