Soaring prices at the pumps has triggered an alarming rise in drive-away thefts from forecourts in one East

Midlands county.


Leicestershire police have warned outlets in the area to be on their guard against thieves, who are hitting some garages up to five times a week.


There were 180 cases reported in the county in April equivalent to six for every day of the month compared to 120 incidents in April the previous year.


One worried Loughborough proprietor, who asked not to be named, said she was being hit four or five times a week.


"We’ve had a really bad spate. It seems that they are targeting one particular area, and then moving on," she said.


A police spokesman said that thieves were aware that filling stations had improved the quality of CCTV surveillance and were therefore resorting to using more stolen registration plates. He explained: "The number of fuel thefts is increasing with rising prices and thieves are using more and more stolen plates so that they cannot be traced."


Dave Nicholls, owner of St. Matthew’s Service Station in Leicester, said: "Margins are so tight that any theft is a blow.


"We are working on something like three-and-a-half pence profit per litre, so any theft comes straight off our bottom line."