Stricter rules on drive-offs have come into force following a long campaign by the British Oil Security Syndicate (BOSS). The Home Office National Crime Recording Standards (NCRS)

guidelines were amended last month so that making off with fuel from a forecourt without paying is now a criminal offence.

According to BOSS, the amendment should help stop police being able to initially categorise drive-offs as a civil debt.

The new NCRS rules state: "Where a victim or their representative reports a ’making off without payment from a garage forecourt’, the incident will be recorded in accordance with the basic principle of NCRS". Police should now record drive-offs as a crime and investigate accordingly until it can be proved otherwise.

Kevin Eastwood, BOSS executive director, said: "We have been campaigning for some considerable time to achieve this change. The breakthrough came after we gave a formal presentation to the Home Office NCRS Steering Group which unanimously supported our proposal, leading to approval from the Home Secretary."

Meanwhile, the latest Home Office statistics showed a 5% rise in robberies at knifepoint in the last three months of 2008 compared with the previous year.