Drivers are forgetting to pay for their fuel at Suffolk petrol stations

A petrol pump. Picture: NICK ANSELL/PA WIRE

A petrol pump. Picture: NICK ANSELL/PA WIRE - Credit: A

Dozens of Suffolk motorists have driven off without paying for petrol over the past two years – but only a handful have been prosecuted for it.

Graphic showing the number of motorists who have driven off without paying for petrol over the past

Graphic showing the number of motorists who have driven off without paying for petrol over the past two years. Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

The highest number of thefts from stations was in the Suffolk Coastal policing district with 26.

Just two people from this area, which includes Felixstowe, Saxmundham and Woodbridge, were prosecuted for the crime.

Ipswich had 10 and no-one prosecuted, and the lowest number was seen in Mid Suffolk with zero.

Acting Ds Michael Florey said he could find no particular reason as to why there were twice as many offenders in Suffolk Coastal – but stressed some drivers innocently forget to pay.

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Officers have to pinpoint if someone is being dishonest, for instance if they have hidden their number plate or driven off quickly to avoid being caught.

He said: “To put the figures into perspective, only a very small percentage of drivers intentionally make off without payment. It is worth noting that a large proportion of these incidents are members of the public who have been distracted or have genuinely forgotten to make payment.

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“Of those offences that are not prosecuted, we have to identify whether or not there are any elements of dishonesty – for example, has the driver attempted to conceal their identity or obscured their registration plate? Have they made off at speed? Does the car have a registered local keeper who is fully insured? These are all indications that suggest whether or not there was any intent to make off without payment.”

Despite this, police are working with the Petrol Retailers’ Association to find better ways of tackling this type of crime.

“The police will proportionately investigate all reports of making off without payment,” Ds Florey said.

“However, the retailer themselves can take some responsibility and look at new innovative ways of taking payment, whether they use a pre-pay system before dispensing fuel or they install ANPR technology to deter, monitor and identify serial offenders.

“The petrol retailer can also report the matter to BOSS Forecourt Watch, a crime reduction partnership initiative designed to meet the requirements of both police and fuel retailers within a police force area.”

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