Police have been accused of failing to protect petrol retailers after it emerged just six per cent of fuel thieves are successfully prosecuted in parts of Yorkshire.
Analysis by the Observer and Advertiser has revealed that only a small fraction of motorists who drive off with up to £120 of unpaid petrol are identified and brought to justice.
Petrol station owners are calling for consistency across police forces in reporting, recording and following up forecourt crimes which cost them more than £30m a year nationally.
Between 2013 and 2015 West Yorkshire Police only brought action against thieves in six per cent of its 10,769 petrol thefts. This compares with North Yorkshire Police who resolved 18 per cent and Humberside Police’s rate of 38 per cent.
And the percentage of drive-off thefts in Yorkshire resulting in action - which can include charges or a caution - has fallen in recent years.
The largest force West Yorkshire resolved only 3.7 per cent of 3,830 cases in 2015 - down from 7.3 per cent in 2013.
Brian Madderson, chairman of the Petrol Retailers Association (PRA), blamed government cuts to the police force.
He said: “The issue is that it’s getting worse both in the number of incidents and in detection. It reached its height last year when the police authorities were under cuts by the Tory government. It is a criminal offence and needs following up.” Nitikant Kasana, manager of BP Gledhow Service Station, Leeds, added drive-offs were the biggest loss to the business.
“The total value of drive-offs in 2015 was £7,241 which is a massive figure in terms of losses,” he said.
Inspector Tom Harrison, of West Yorkshire Police, said thefts of fuel from petrol station forecourts continued to be a challenging area for policing.
“Detecting offences of this kind is reliant upon, in most cases, good quality CCTV to identify the offender or the registration number of the vehicle to identify the owner of the vehicle. If either of these are not available, in most cases, there are very few additional lines of enquiry,” he said. An AA spokesman said there was sometimes a spike in the number of fuel thefts when forecourt prices were particularly high.