Petrol retailers have lost almost £40,000 in a six-month period due to forecourt drive-offs in the local policing area.
From April 1, 2013 to January 31, 2014, there were almost 1,600 incidents of people driving off without paying for fuel in Lisburn, Antrim, Newtownabbey and Carrickfergus.
The Forecourt Watch project aims to streamline the process and speed things up for both police and the petrol retailer.
Inspector Derek McCamley, from D District Community Safety, said: “Before the introduction of the project each case has taken up six hours of police time to investigate, and even when the outcome is successful, that was not really an efficient use of our resources.
“When a drive-off occurs, the petrol retailer reports it as usual and completes a statement in a pack we have provided to them. We establish the ownership of the vehicle concerned and write to the owner who has two weeks in which to make restitution.
“If they do not within that time period they will be liable for prosecution. The scheme has advantages for the police in that it saves us time, and for the retailers in that it means they recover their money without any more effort than before.”
Insp. McCamley said the majority of drive-offs are due to human error.
“Our experience has been that the vast majority of cases followed up under Forecourt Watch have been successful and during the period 1 April 2013 until 31 January 2014 almost £35,000 has been recovered,” he added.
“However there are still some motorists who will deliberately try to evade paying for fuel and police encourage forecourt owners to take measures to help prevent the number of drive-offs occurring.”