Last month there was uproar when Devon and Cornwall Police revealed that taking fuel and driving off without payment would not be investigated and their lack of resources meant they would not deal with it.
It’s hard to believe, but some police forces still treat theft of fuel as a civil offence. But last year revised Home Office guidance for making off without payment made it clear that where an incident is deliberate, then a crime has been committed.
We all know that police are under considerable pressure and we must all accept that to tackle crime effectively, all parties need to take responsibility. Retailers must ensure that they have robust procedures in place to prevent incidents and, when incidents do occur, that all the necessary evidence is collected.
Yet again I’ve written to the Home Office and the National Police Chiefs’ Council (formerly ACPO) and demanded that where customers deliberately drive off without paying, then the police must record the incident as a crime. They should then investigate and take appropriate action.
What’s even more apparent is that the collection of evidence needs to be effective and accurate. If it’s not, then the police may well have reason not to pursue an investigation.
At BOSS we’ve developed an initiative to tackle drive-off offenders in partnership with the police. Our trial pursues registered keepers whose vehicles are reported as being involved in drive-offs. Since the trial began, participating retailers have experienced a significant reduction in drive-offs and an improvement in debt recovery. The police have welcomed the new scheme as it has reduced demands on their time. Needless to say, we’re planning to extend this new service to members during the autumn.
Meanwhile, if any BOSS member is not getting the response they want from the police then, as long as staff are collecting and keeping detailed evidence of the crime, we can take steps to challenge the police. Simply let me have the details and we will do what we can to consider and address the issues raised. If you think a genuine mistake has been made and it’s not deliberate, then it is not a police matter and you should be clear on this before you make the call. Remember, the police are not debt collectors.