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The pattern of crime on UK forecourts has radically shifted after a turbulent 12 months which has seen fuel offences see-saw up and down, according to BOSS (British Oil Security Syndicate).

During the first lockdown the BOSS Forecourt Crime Index halved and then, as the economy re-opened for the first time, the BOSS Index jumped 41% during Q3, only to return to negative territory when the second wave struck, and the index fell 27% in Q4. More recently, while reports of No Means of Payment (NMoP) have remained static, Drive Off (DRVO) incidents have soared by 38%.

BOSS executive director Kevin Eastwood said: “What’s clear is we’re seeing a radical shift in both the size and the type of fuel crime. Gone are the days when DRVO dominated fuel crime on the forecourt. NMoP now represents two thirds of the value of fuel crime, and it has grown steadily.

“As fuel sales make a recovery to pre-pandemic levels and the economy recovers, we expect car travel to continue to grow. Forecourt operators would do well to take note of the changing nature of crime and return to basics to tackle a problem that could balloon over the summer months as staycations bring more travelers onto our roads.

“Therefore, when an incident occurs on your forecourt, it’s essential that a clear and robust process is in place to impress on motorists that those who do not intend to pay, will be followed up and traced. This has always been one of the benefits of our Payment Watch service and it’s resulted in around 80% of motorists returning to pay within seven days.”

Nowadays DRVO incidents are lower in value when compared to NMoP, which suggests these incidents seem opportunistic, he said. He added: “What’s clear is more motorists are taking advantage of forecourt operators’ good nature and claiming to have no means to pay for fuel.

“Sadly, there will be those who have no intention of paying and it amazes me that even when someone is deliberately trying to evade payment, many people think that we will give up. I’m afraid that is not the case anymore.

“Some motorists are clearly treating fuel as an easy target when money is tight, a sort of pay-day loan, and it’s essential that BOSS continues to recover money for forecourt retailers. The is no magic to reducing fuel crime on forecourts, and an essential ingredient is attention to detail and teamwork. Implemented carefully means together, we can, and do, catch offenders.”