BOSS has launched a pioneering project with Strathclyde Police to help fuel retailers in rural communities tackle crime on their forecourts.

Strathclyde Police and BOSS are building on an existing partnership to develop closer ties between police and out-of-town fuel retailers around Dunoon, Cowal and Oban. The rural scheme was introduced alongside new Forecourt Watches covering urban service stations in the Clydebank and Dumbarton areas.

Commenting on the initiatives, which were officially launched at Dumbarton police office, area commander chief inspector Fergus Byrne of Strathclyde police said: “This is a fine example of co-operation and partnership working to make filling stations safer places for customers and employees.

“The sharing of information in relation to crimes and disorder should impact on crime associated with petrol stations not only in the more populated areas of the division such as Clydebank, Dumbarton, Alexandria and Helensburgh, but also in some of the more rural areas of Argyll and Bute.”

Meanwhile, in the West Midlands a new Forecourt Watch scheme has been rolled out across the entire West Midlands Police force area as part of Operation Kadence, which aims to drive down fuel and numberplate theft following successful trials in Birmingham and Sandwell.

Chief inspector Andy Beard, leading the operation, said: “Initial results show that since the operation’s launch bilkings have reduced by 37% in the targeted areas, while numberplate thefts have also come down by 25%. The initial successes have led to the operation being extended to the whole West Midlands Police force area, as we strive to see similar reductions in this kind of crime throughout the region.”

In West Yorkshire, a new Forecourt Watch scheme was launched in the Wakefield district to stem a growth in crime at fuel stations. Detective inspector Steve Norman of Wakefield District Division said: “This partnership provides a commitment from Wakefield District Police to work with petrol retailers to do all we can to catch and prosecute fuel thieves, whilst providing a safer environment for their staff. Forecourts are often seen as a soft target by criminals. This initiative will change that perception.”

Kevin Eastwood, BOSS executive director, added: “We’re pleased to be extending our partnerships with a number of police forces, which have already achieved some notable successes in apprehending persistent offenders. Our joint efforts are intended to support and benefit fuel retailers in both urban and rural areas.

“Service stations are a vital community resource and we’re committed to ensuring they’re a safe environment for customers and staff, targeting those people who drive off without paying for their fuel and use forecourts as a route to commit more serious crimes. By building successful partnerships with local police, retailers and other agencies through initiatives such as BOSS Forecourt Watch and Payment Watch schemes, we are able to deter and prevent crime on forecourts as well as bringing offenders to justice.”

Payment Watch helps fuel retailers recover financial losses incurred when drivers fill up, claim to be unable to pay and subsequently fail to return to settle up. Since its launch last year the scheme has achieved average recovery rates of 80%, generating overwhelmingly positive feedback from among almost 1,000 retailers so far signed up, whose losses it has helped to recoup.

Forecourt Watch creates a closer working relationship between police, BOSS and retail staff to increase awareness, prevention and the reporting and recording of incidents. The latest initiatives join more than 70 schemes already operating throughout the UK.

Research shows that offences of driving off without paying for fuel are often linked to offenders or vehicles involved in other types of crime and to disqualified drivers, those without insurance, tax or MOT, or vehicles with false number plates.

Professionally designed BOSS documentation will be provided to staff at all forecourts taking part in the scheme. This enables fuel service stations to work in conjunction with police and BOSS to help bring offenders to justice. This initiative will raise awareness among customers and potential thieves that crime-fighting schemes are in operation and that making off without payment is a criminal offence.

Service stations registered with the schemes will also benefit from sharing information with police and each other on suspects, vehicles and known offenders – to maximise disruption and detection of offences.