THIEVES have been targeting cars parked up at shopping centres and supermarkets.

In what appears to be the latest in a long string of similar incidents, cars have been stripped of catalytic converters when parked up in bays outside shopping hotspots in Bicester.

Catalytic converters are fitted into cars to reduce toxic gases and pollutants in exhaust fumes.

They contain a small amount of the precious metals platinum, palladium and rhodium – which can be re-sold at high prices.

Thieves use a car jack to lift the car and take out the converter, which can take only a couple of minutes.

In an alert online, Thames Valley Police warned that there had been at least four reports in the last few weeks.

On Saturday October 12, a converter was stolen from a Toyota parked on Cherry Street in Stratton Audley – just outside of Bicester.

They say it happened between 2.30pm that day and 4pm on Sunday.

On October 17, days later, more cars were targeted at Blue Diamonds garden centre on Bicester Avenue.

Converters were ripped out some time between 1pm and 2pm in the afternoon.

On the same day, between 12pm and 5pm, cars in Bicester Park and Ride were stuck.

On October 19 more converters were stolen from Sainsbury's car park in Pioneer Square.

Last week Sainsbury's was evacuated after a car was on fire in the car park

Thames Valley Police have previously dished out advice to drivers, telling people to weld on bolted converters so they can't be stolen and adding a unique serial number on the converter in case it is.