Convenience stores are targeting fuel theft on the UK’s forecourts in a joint assault with the Home Office, police and the wider fuel industry.

Fuel theft costs £36m a year, figures from the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) suggest.

Each site sees an average of three to four incidents every week, equating to more than 1.6 million incidents a year, the trade body says.

These subdivide into £17m worth of incidents when customers claim they have no means of payment and £19m of drive offs.

Now the ACS, Petrol Retailers Association (PRA) and the Downstream Fuel Association, as part of the Home Office Forecourt Crime Steering Group, have developed new guidance to support fuel retailers in training employees to prevent drive offs and a standard form for reporting incidents to the police.

It addresses what retailers can look out for to prevent drive offs and what they can do when individuals clam they have no means of payment with them.

The guidance also addresses the top-three triggers for violence and aggression in stores: age restricted sales, refusing to serve anyone who is intoxicated and attempts to prevent shop theft.

James Lowman, chief executive of the ACS, said fuel retailers made “every effort” to prevent fuel theft by investing in CCTV, automatic number plate recognition and staff training.

“We hope the guidance we have produced will support retailers to prevent fuel theft and help them build closer relationships with the police to catch offenders and deter others from trying.”

Sarah Newton MP, minister for vulnerability, safeguarding and countering extremism, said the guidance would help fuel retailers prevent thefts.

PRA chairman Brian Madderson said: “As key members of the Home Office Forecourt Crime Senior Steering Group we have been encouraged to see the practical and realistic efforts by government, industry and the police to find new ways of combating the rise in forecourt crime”.

The guidance says to prevent drive offs look out for:

  • Customers covering their face with a hood, hat or helmet
  • People concealing themselves behind their vehicle or pump
  • Anyone using the pump furthest away from the store or nearest the exit when others are available
  • Vehicles where the number plate has been removed, covered up, restricted or tampered with
  • Vehicles in poor repair and which look suspicious
  • Any car doors open when being filled
  • Passengers filling the vehicle while the driver remains in the car
  • The lights on and engine still running.