Criminals who fill up and drive off from fuel stations are the target of a new scheme launched by police and industry partners in West Fife.

Fife Police has joined forces with the British Oil Security Syndicate (BOSS), Dunfermline and West Fife Community Safety Panel and independent retailers to introduce Forecourt Watch in West Fife.

The scheme creates a closer link between police, BOSS and retail staff to increase awareness, prevention and the reporting and recording of incidents. The West Fife Forecourt Watch scheme is the latest addition to some 70 schemes already operating throughout the UK.

Marking the launch of the scheme at Dunfermline Police Office, PC Kenny Greig, community safety officer for Dunfermline, said: "Fife Constabulary is committed to working in partnership with others to reduce crime and bring criminals to justice. Fuel theft is not a victimless crime and has an impact on consumers, retailers and the police.

“This will lead to positive changes in the way we manage forecourt crime, driving down fuel theft, increasing the number of detections and making this business environment a safer place for staff and customers alike.”

A pilot Forecourt Watch launched initially in Dunfermline last year saw a reduction of 35 per cent in reported fuel thefts at participating service stations, compared to an increase elsewhere of 17 per cent.

Research shows that fuel theft is 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. Service stations will work in conjunction with police and BOSS to help bring offenders to justice.

High visibility stickers and posters on the forecourt itself will raise awareness among customers and potential thieves that Forecourt Watch is in operation and making off without payment is a criminal offence. Stations registered with the scheme will also benefit from sharing information with police and each other on suspects, vehicles and known offenders to maximise disruption and detection of offences.

Jim Anderson, BOSS regional co-ordinator, says: "Drive-offs and No Means of Payment incidents cost the UK oil industry approximately £30 million every year. By building successful partnerships with local police, petrol retailers and other agencies through initiatives such as the BOSS Forecourt Watch schemes, we are able to deter and prevent crime on service station forecourts. Our aim is to maintain fuel stations as a safe environment for customers and staff. Fuel retailers in the area have joined the scheme, which will target those people who drive off without paying for their fuel and use service stations as a route to commit more serious crimes.

BOSS estimates that the crime throughout Britain, excluding credit card fraud, cost the oil industry £29.9million last year.