MOotoring experts have slammed petrol station fuel thefts as the equivalent of “burgling somebody’s house”, and said rising prices could be to blame.
More than £47,000 of fuel was stolen from petrol stations across the county in the last financial year.
But police and road chiefs said measures were being taken to tackle the problem. On December 16, the force launched Forecourt Watch.
Of the total 628 offences, 11 were settled with restorative justice, 32 people had the crime taken into consideration with other charges, 5 were given a caution, 18 people received a summons and 31 people were charged.
Insp James Black of Lancashire police said: “The Constabulary has identified that there has been an increase in reported theft of fuel offences.
“As a result, earlier this year we commenced work with key partners and individuals within the fuel trade in order to collectively develop processes for the effective prevention, reporting, recording and investigation of these offences.
“Neighbourhood Policing Teams across the county have been out visiting fuel retailers providing them with clarity on the process and pertinent crime prevention advice.”
A spokesman for the Old Oak Garage in Hoghton Lane, Hoghton, where £241 worth of fuel was stolen, said: “It is a problem nationally. We do find that sort of thing happening more at this time of year.
“You can chase them – which I have done on many occassions.
“It is a case of being aware really. You have to keep tabs on how much people are filling up, or if you see a number plate that is a bit wonky or a person trying to look away from the cameras.”
The spokesman said there are schemes in place, but it is a “crime we have to put up with” because of insurance excess.
In some instance petrol stations are seeing vans enter the forecourt with a barrel in the back, which they then fill up with as much fuel as they can.
He added: “Anything else if you don’t have the money you have to put it back, but you can’t do that with fuel.”
Paul Watters, head of roads policy for the AA, said fuel thefts had always been around, but measures were being taken to tackle the problem.
Mr Watters said although stealing fuel was now more difficult, it still took place.
He said: “It is criminality – it is the same as shoplifting, but they are probably netting more value than a shoplifter.
“You could put it down, perhaps a little bit, to the price of fuel and the economic state of affairs that some people are in, but it is no different to burgling somebody’s house.”