Updated: Wednesday, 15th July 2020 @ 4:12pm

Plague of 'drive-offs' exposed: More than 2,300 drivers flee Manchester petrol stations without paying

Plague of 'drive-offs' exposed: More than 2,300 drivers flee Manchester petrol stations without paying

Exclusive by Matt Scrafton

More than 2,300 drivers were recorded fleeing Manchester petrol stations without paying over the last three years – an average of two a day.

Since April 2010, more than 3,000 crimes have been recorded in petrol station forecourts by Greater Manchester Police.

And 76% of these crimes – 2,384 in total – fall under the category of customers driving off without paying.

BP, a British multinational oil and gas company who run a number of petrol stations in Manchester, said the crimes cause them great difficulty.

A BP spokesman said: “Drive-offs continue to be a problem in many areas of the country with some sites being particularly affected.”

These thefts were especially bad in 2010, making up 85% of all crimes in petrol station forecourts – with 151 people driving off without paying in June alone.

Although this figure dropped to 67% in 2012, the problem still makes up the vast majority of crimes in petrol stations to this day.

The BP spokesman added: “We work closely with the police to identify offenders through the use of sophisticated CCTV cameras and Automatic Number Plate Recognition systems.

“These initiatives have helped to reduce losses in many parts of the country.”

The two most other frequent crimes in petrol stations are; theft from shops and stalls, which make up just 2.7%; and theft if not classified elsewhere, which makes up 9.8%.

Despite these eye-opening statistics, Greater Manchester Police insist they are on top of the problem.

A GMP spokesman said: “When compared with the number of transactions that take place on a daily basis, the number who make off without payment is relatively low.

“Greater Manchester Police works with petrol station companies to give them advice on crime prevention, and the majority have CCTV installed which helps identify anyone who makes off without paying.”

Most petrol stations hold databases which help identify the registration plates of vehicles that leave their forecourts without paying.

Police often use these databases to hunt down petrol thieves, but this can often prove costly and takes up a disproportionate amount of their time.

In 2011, the BBC reported the soaring cost of petrol was a significant factor in the increase of these crimes.

A number of solutions have been considered, including making customers pay in advance, and installing security spikes in the forecourts to stop people driving away.

Picture courtesy of Rama, with thanks.

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