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4,600 fuel thefts in five years at petrol stations
FUEL worth nearly a quarter of a million pounds has been stolen from county pumps in the last five years.
Police figures obtained by the Oxford Mail under the Freedom of Information Act show thieves targeted petrol pumps 4,665 times between January 2009 and August this year.
The criminals made off without paying for petrol and diesel worth a total £237,776.
But the statistics also show that police are getting on top of the crime – known as “bilking” – after the rate fell 34.5 per cent from 1,049 fuel thefts in 2009 to 687 last year.
Martin Townsend, team leader at Tesco Express on the A40 at Eynsham, said despite this, thefts remained a threat.
He said they were still happening at the station, with about 10 or 12 thieves targeting the garage every month.
Mr Townsend added: “It has been pretty steady here. I don’t think there has been a great increase or decrease.”
Jonathan Fraser, manager of Fraser’s Budgens supermarket and filling station on the A44 at Yarnton, said thefts had fallen, but rising fuel prices meant bilking was still hurting traders.
He added: “We have seen a decrease of late but at the same time any drive-off is a kick in the teeth for us now because of the expense of fuel.
“As fuel prices have gone up, we have to pay more like the consumer has to.”
But he said police seemed to be effectively fighting the fuel thieves: “What we have found of late is that the police have been quite proactive.
“There seems to be a shift in their focus which means that it looks like there are fewer opportunities to drive off without paying.”
Fuel thieves often steal number plates to use while filling up so they cannot be tracked on CCTV.
There were 1,891 number plate thefts in Oxfordshire between January 2009 and the end of August this year. Plates were stolen 468 times in 2009 and 374 in 2012.
Thames Valley Police also use Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras to flag up suspicious or stolen plates to petrol station staff.
Spokesman Lucy Billen said: “We will continue to work closely with local businesses to advise them on the best ways they can increase their security to help make it harder for offenders get away with committing these types of offences."”
2009: 1,049 bilking crimes with a total of £39,677 in fuel stolen
2010: 1,83 crimes and £74,149 stolen
2011: 830 crimes and £48,304 stolen
2012: 687 crimes and about £41,822 stolen
2013 to Aug: 516 crimes and £33,824 stolen.
Number plates stolen
2013 to Aug: 253
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