A spike in drivers not paying for fuel due to high prices could cost forecourt operators more than £100m in 2022.
There has been at 2,054 incidents of drivers refusing to pay at the pump so far this year in the capital, according to a Freedom of Information Request submitted by City A.M., and sent by the Metropolitan Police.
The request indicates the lowest point of people driving off without paying was 280 in February, with the the high point being 369 in April.
This comes after the Russian war in Ukraine was launched on 24 February leading to concerns about fuel security and supply chain issues. The growing cost of living crisis also contributed to rising fuel costs.
March, April, May and June recorded an average of 365 per-month.
Responding to the figures, Bruce Nichol, operations director at the British Oil Security Syndicate (BOSS) said record fuel prices in recent months make not paying “more attractive to criminals.”
According to its Forecourt Crime Index published recently, there has been a near 15 per cent increase in unpaid fuel in the first three months of 2022, with fuel prices up by 10.5 per cent on last year.
BOSS said two thirds of unpaid fuel reports are motorists saying they had no means of paying, while a third was by those who make no attempt, with both up 20 per cent in that time.
It added, the increase in drive-offs could cost forecourt operators upwards of £100m, as it urged people to report offenders through its app. which has been used by the police and CPS to identify criminals.
It made the comments ahead of the publication of its report for the second quarter of the year.
This comes after ex chancellor Rishi Sunak introduced a fuel duty cut amid soaring petrol prices and the cost of living crisis.
The competition and markets authority investigated as to whether it was passed on to the consumer at the pump, and found it was, but there remained serious concerns.
AA spokesman Luke Bosdet said he was surprised by the “consistency of the numbers” throughout the last six months, despite constantly rising pump numbers.
Responding to the BOSS figures, he said: “Whenever pump prices rise dramatically, they trigger a wave of thefts both from forecourts and in the street. Some of that theft will be cash-strapped individuals desperate to keep their vehicles running for work.
“However, much of that crime will be organised groups who see the opportunity to make quick ‘no questions asked’ money from an expensive and essential item that is in high demand. They are the ones turning up to forecourts with extra tanks on the back seat, ready to run the risk of having large volumes of volatile fuel bouncing around just behind their seat.”
“If they get caught, it often ends a local crime spree immediately. Other drivers and residents in areas where fuel thefts happen need to keep their eyes open and report anything to the police immediately. Fuel has a very distinctive smell, it’s hard to hide if cops pull over a suspect.”