POLICE and crime prevention officers are working with petrol stations across South and East Belfast to highlight that driving off without paying for fuel can now result in a criminal record.
Sergeant Sam Ballard, Neighourbood Policing Officer says: “There was a change in the Home Office guidelines with regard to the recording of these incidents.
“It now means driving off from a petrol station without paying for any fuel that you have put in your vehicle is now automatically recorded as a crime.
“Human error can play a part, in that people may go into the petrol station, pick up other items such as groceries etc. and forget to mention that they also have fuel to pay for. However, there are also cases where the individual deliberately drives off without paying.”
Victoria Thompson Crime Prevention Officers, South and East Belfast outlines the scale of the problem:
“From 01 April 2014 to 05 October 2014 in East Belfast there have been over 100 incidents of people driving off without paying for fuel, while in South Belfast there have been over 130 incidents.
“If you consider that to fill the tank for a small car, can cost over £40 while for a large jeep it can be close to £70, it can be a significant loss to a business if it was happening on a regular basis.
“Crime prevention officers and neighbourhood police officers will be visiting petrol stations across South and East Belfast with stickers that will be placed on the forecourt and posters that will be put in the station shop to reinforce the fact that it is a crime to drive off without paying and that it can result in a criminal record.”
Sergeant Ballard adds: “Most petrol stations have very good CCTV in place which records vehicle number plates, so if someone does drive off without paying this CCTV footage can be reviewed, the owner of the vehicle identified and they will then be contacted by police. The case will then follow a process which may mean the person ends up with a criminal record.”