Petrol theft has risen sharply in Britain, according to new data, and it could be down to “systematic criminal activity”.
Figures gathered by the RAC Foundation show there were 39,563 incidents between July and September this year – a 77% rise from 22,335 over the same period last year.
That’s also a fourfold increase from 8,558 incidents in those three months in 2019.
The British Oil Security Syndicate – which campaigns to reduce crime on forecourts – estimates these incidents cost filling stations an average of £10,500 each per year.
Most of the incidents are likely to relate to drive-offs – also referred to as bilking – when someone fills up their vehicle without paying, and then leaves.
Drivers convicted of making off without payment, which is an offence under the Theft Act 1978, face a maximum penalty of two years in prison and/or an unlimited fine.
RAC Foundation director Steve Gooding said the figures come as “no surprise” and might “only hint at a bigger issue”.
“While it may be that the cost of living crisis is tempting some people to risk driving off without paying, the real headache for fuel suppliers is if this is a sign of more systematic criminal activity,” he added.
“The message to anyone tempted to bilk the service station must be ‘don’t fill up if you can’t pay up’ because getting caught is a real possibility, and financial losses to companies ultimately lead to higher prices for us all.”
Written by: Newsroom