Police in South Derbyshire are clamping down on the theft of fuel and warning motorists that they could face prosecution if they drive off without paying for fuel.

The warnings came after a rise in drive-offs across the district.

Officers from the Safer Neighbourhood teams are visiting forecourts in the area, working with the owners to raise awareness with staff and to give them hints and tips to prevent the offence from taking place.

Sergeant Graham Summers, who leads Safer Neighbourhood teams in South Derbyshire, said: “We understand that sometimes this can be a genuine mistake and we work with the petrol stations to deal with those situations.

“However, we have had more than 70 incidents in the last year where it has been clear that the act has been deliberate and we investigate these situations like any other theft.

“There are steps that petrol station owners can take to reduce the risk of this type of offence and we are advising them about these. However we are also taking steps ourselves to investigate the incidents including using Automating Number Plate Reading (ANPR) technology.”

Petrol stations in Egginton, Hatton and Swarkestone have been visited so far and have been issued with signage and posters for their forecourts.