Background: How petrol stations are taking law into their own hands

Graphic: Graeme Bandeira
Graphic: Graeme Bandeira
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FACED with the increasing cost of petrol thefts, frustrated retailers are looking to the private sector and taking action into their own hands.

Private companies such as Forecourt Eye and the British Oil Security Syndicate (BOSS) are leading the way with debt recovery schemes and a commitment to cooperate with the police.

We take their details but the police don’t really help much here, once the customer has left the premises we have given them credit and it’s then a civil matter.

David Craven-Jones, Petrol Retailers Association

Forecourt Eye, which automatically shares images and information with the police online, has been a success for Farook Asmal, manager of BP Linden Service, Dewsbury Road, Leeds.

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What used to take hours of time, calling out the police, waiting for them to arrive, providing statements and supplying evidence is now easy and simple to do by using the online tools.

He said: “Drive-offs are an issue but Forecourt Eye has helped me a lot. They contact the police for me.”

Latest statistics from BOSS, which records and reports forecourt crime, said that fuel theft cost British fuel retailers an estimated £31.4 million annually.

A spokesman said: “The main issue the police have is that they don’t have the time and BOSS helps reduce police time.”

David Craven-Jones, a member of the executive committee for the Petrol Retailers Association who has 12 businesses around Hull, said the police could help if retailers got the number plate but it was down to the petrol stations to get the correct information.

“The police can do more but so can the retailers. We have spent a lot of money on updating our CCTV technology. If we have good details it is followed up but 9 out of 10 it is a false or stolen number plate,’ he said.

“There are loads [of incidents], the most recent was last week when a customer drove off with £60.

“They pull up and park at the furthest away pump and just drive off, sometimes leaving the pump on the ground so the cashier still thinks it’s being used.”

Tony Leaning, operations manager at Jos Richardson and Son, which has five sites across the region, said action depended on who you talk to.

‘I am not angry, I am frustrated,” he said.

To add to this frustration is the additional problem of customers claiming not have enough money to pay for petrol which is not regarded as a criminal offence.

‘We take their details but the police don’t really help much here, once the customer has left the premises we have given them credit and it’s then a civil matter,’’ added Mr Craven-Jones.

A Forecourt Crime Senior Steering Group has also now been set up by Minister for Policing Mike Penning in partnership with the PRA. It has representatives from the police, government and fuel industry.

Brian Madderson, of the PRA, said: “It is a watershed moment when the government and police have recognised that there is a problem. Both the police and retailers are going to work together to try and solve the issue.”