A NEW crackdown has been launched in response to a rise in petrol station drive offs across the whole of the county.
Figures obtained by the Observer under the Freedom of Information Act show there were 38 incidents of petrol station drive offs in Accrington in the past 12 months.
The thefts cost local traders more than £2,700.Of the offenders caught, two community resolution orders and a caution were handed out.
The figures have prompted Lancashire Police and the Police and Crime Commissioner to develop new ways of tackling the problem.
Police Commissioner Clive Grunshaw explained the reasons for the crackdown. He said: “Garages across the county were seeing more and more drive-offs – and owners clearly wanted to work more closely with the police to reduce this growing trend.
“Now, I’ve worked with the constabulary to develop a policy which will help not only businesses but also reduce demand on the police, cutting down on wasted time while hopefully ensuring more criminals are caught.”
Police processes have been streamlined to ensure officers are not deployed unnecessarily to accidental incidents.
Mr Grunshaw added: “Those who deliberately drive off from petrol stations are often involved in wider criminality – it’s important procedures are put in place to give officers the best chance of successfully tracking the culprits down.
“I hope the new policy will have benefits for both business owners and the police.”
Unless there are aggravating factors – such as the vehicle being stolen, using false plates, or deliberately avoiding CCTV, an officer will only be deployed if payment has not been made within a given time.
Chief Insp Abid Khan said petrol stations being targeted by people who do not wish to do what everyone else is expected to, and pay for their fuel, is “unacceptable”.