The British Oil Security Syndicate (BOSS) is launching an enhanced Forecourt Watch scheme, which aims to save petrol retailers in Hertfordshire £300,000 a year by cutting the number of drive-offs and ’no means of payment’ offences.

The new scheme, launching this month in partnership with Hertfordshire Police, will cover almost 90 service stations and introduce a more robust system for recording and checking the identity of offending customers and their vehicles. Retailers will be able to ring a new dedicated BOSS call centre to check details given by customers who claim they cannot pay after filling up.

Persistent drive-off offenders will be vigorously pursued by police and could have their vehicles crushed.

BOSS executive director, Kevin Eastwood, said: "The new call centre will ensure genuine customers who have no means of payment can confirm their identity and pay by phone the next day. However, people trying to avoid paying by using false identities will be pursued through the courts and prosecuted."

If successful, the tougher scheme could be introduced across the UK.

Meanwhile another Forecourt Watch scheme in Wakefield, South Yorkshire, has seen drive-offs drop by around 30%. Led by PC Brian Taylor, it has created a network of members who use a pager alert system to pass on details of suspicious vehicles.

PC Taylor, said: "The scheme has been very successful. I enjoy being the garages’ main point of contact. We work with, and support, each other."