Putting brakes on drive-offs

Move is on to curb drive-offs from filling station forecourts in Ballymena . (Editorial Image).
Move is on to curb drive-offs from filling station forecourts in Ballymena . (Editorial Image).

An increase in motorists leaving local forecourts without paying has fuelled a joint plan of action involving police and filling station owners.

Ballymena PSNI have been working with filling stations throughout the town and surrounding area to remind motorists to pay for their petrol.

The move comes as crime statistics show that the number of forecourt drive offs is increasing throughout the area.

Constable Jock McToal said: “Since April 2014, leaving a garage without paying for fuel is classified as a crime (making off without payment).

“The vast majority of drive-offs are due to human error. By the time people get to the checkout, picking up groceries and messages along the way, they sometimes forget about their fuel purchase.

“However, police need to increase awareness of the issue because of the unnecessary demand drive offs place on police resources, with officers spending time chasing up payments.

“There is also the embarrassment caused when police call to someone’s house to recover the fuel payment.

“No one wants a surprise visit from police in full uniform in a marked car, so we are asking people to be more mindful when they are filling up.

“We are also aware that while there are those who do make a mistake and will pay up, there are some motorists who deliberately try to evade paying for fuel.

“So, we would encourage forecourt owners to take measures to help prevent the number of drive-offs occurring,” he said.

Constable McToal pointed out that measures can include displaying clear signs around the pumps asking motorists to ensure they have the necessary funds to pay for their fuel and installing CCTV.

The Constable said staff at filling stations should also be vigilant to activity on the forecourt and report anything suspicious to the police immediately and he urged staff members to remember to note down details such as registration numbers and a description of the driver.