Police in Watford have been deploying a police CCTV van at a Tesco petrol station to deter drive-offs and detect other car crime, according to a report in the Watford Observer.

The bright yellow police van has been left unmanned in the garage at Bushey for several hours a day, for more than a month, but local police refused to say why.

However, staff from Tesco Express revealed that the van is there to stop motorists driving off without paying for petrol and to track motorists with false number plates and invalid tax or insurance.

Deputy manager Karan Theyeagearasha said: “We’ve had loads of people come in here, fill up their tanks and drive off. It’s not a small amount of petrol either, we’re talking at least £70 a time.

“Having the police presence acts as a deterrent, they’re preventing crime. If people drive in with false number plates, without insurance or valid tax, or even stolen cars they can capture them on their CCTV.”

He said the visits were at random. Police would park on the forecourt, leave the van and patrol the high street.

He added: “Since they’ve started doing it I’ve noticed fewer people are driving off without paying for their petrol.”