Move to combat forecourt fuel thefts in County Durham

Police in County Durham are teaming up with petrol retailers in an effort to cut thefts from garage forecourts.

Between April 2011 and January this year, police recorded 138 offences of drivers filling up and leaving without paying in Peterlee, Seaham and Durham.

The practice, known as bilking, is thought to be linked to 75 car numberplate thefts in the same period.

Now independent garages in the area have joined Forecourt Watch, which shares details about suspect vehicles.

Crime alerts

Ten garages in Peterlee, Seaham and the Sherburn, Bowburn and Gilesgate areas of Durham have signed up to the scheme.

Police alert the garages to any thefts of registration plates and keep them up to date with relevant offences at other premises.

Work is also under way to extend the scheme to the neighbouring force areas of Northumbria and Cleveland.

A Durham Police spokesman said: "This type of crime costs the petrol industry £19m a year, but by working in partnership with the retailers, we should see Forecourt Watch begin to have an effect.

"Bilking is a major problem which takes up a lot of police time. By working together in this way we can all make life a lot more difficult for fuel thieves."

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