More cars drive off for free

PUBLISHED: 08:00 19 October 2015 | UPDATED: 10:02 19 October 2015

Pumping gas

Pumping gas

Archant

THE number of Weston-super-Mare drivers speeding away from petrol stations without paying is set to reach its highest in five years.

Despite fuel prices tumbling in the past few years since hitting a peak of 140p per litre in September 2012, it seems ‘drive-offs’ are becoming increasing cause for concern for garage owners, with 64 reported incidents in Weston-super-Mare this year so far.

That already matches the number of incidents in the whole of last year, with 40 in 2013 and just 30 in 2012, according to the figures obtained by a Freedom of Information request. Since 2011 there have been 273 incidents in Weston.

Some of the town’s fuel station owners have voiced their frustration at the increasing regularity of the incidents. They say the crime cannot simply be put down to absent-mindedness.

Garage owner Gordon Reasons, who runs a petrol station in Burnham, said: “Of course you get some absent-minded people but usually it is just criminals.

“It is a problem for every garage in the country. There are some garages where it happens every day.

“It tends to happen more often in the summer when there are holiday-makers around.”

Mr Reasons said rogue drivers usually fill their tanks with up to £80 of petrol, before driving away.

He added: “If you’re going to do a drive-off, you fill up with £60, £70, even £80.”

The average price for a litre of unleaded petrol is currently 109p – which represents a significant drop since the soaring prices of 2012 – though the figure remains higher than in November 2006, when a litre of petrol cost just 86p.

The figures suggest a correlation between rocketing fuel prices and instances of ‘drive-offs’, with 75 incidents in 2011 – when the economic downturn plummeted to its lowest ebb.

British Oil Security Syndicate (BOSS) aims to make fuel stations safe and free of crime.

A spokesman said: “BOSS is working with police to develop more efficient ways of reporting incidents and taking steps to see that persistent offenders are prosecuted.

Sam Holliday, development manager for the Federation of Small Businesses, said alternative methods of crime were becoming a mounting concern for shop owners, especially during times of economic hardship.

He said: “Cyber crime is something that seems to be on the rise as well. Scams, fraud and deception are on the rise and are causing concern for small business owners.”

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