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Police in Cheshire have issued a warning to drivers making off from forecourts without paying for fuel that they will be brought to justice.

According to Cheshire Constabulary there has been an increase in drivers filling up their car with fuel at petrol stations and driving away without paying. In July 2022 there were more than 100 reports of fuel thefts from petrol stations across the county.

It warned that making off without payment is criminal offence and anyone committing this theft could face a fine or a jail sentence, as well as a criminal record.

It said that as part of their tools to catch offenders, officers use Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras to virtually monitor vehicles suspected of involvement of committing fuel theft. These cameras are spread across the county’s road network on popular routes.

There is also Retrospective Facial Recognition (RFR) technology that officers can use by taking images of faces caught on CCTV through a database to receive a positive identity along with Operator Initiated Facial Recognition (OIFR) which allows officers, when they perform a stop check, to photograph a person’s face and compare it in real time to a reference image database to assist in confirming their identity.

Chief superintendent Peter Crowcroft said: “We appreciate that times are hard with the cost of living soaring, however, we cannot stand by and allow a small minority of people to get away with the theft of fuel.

“This may seem trivial to some but as police, we have a job to do and if you are committing any type of crime, we will prosecute you.

“Of course, there will be some innocent cases where drivers have left a petrol station without making payment and then, once realising their mistake, return to make a payment.

“However, there are still people who purposely fill a full tank of fuel and drive away with no intention of paying for it.

“Be aware, in Cheshire, we have many tools at our disposal such as ANPR cameras on road networks and facial recognition capabilities that will assist us in identifying offenders and bringing them to justice.

“So if you are thinking about driving off without paying for fuel, just think is this worth it?”