New PSNI petrol ‘drive-off’ pilot scheme criticised

//New PSNI petrol ‘drive-off’ pilot scheme criticised

New PSNI petrol ‘drive-off’ pilot scheme criticised

[Petrol pump] PA Petrol stations in the Lisburn and Castlereagh and Ards and North Down districts received letters from the PSNI in July explaining how the new system would work. A new PSNI pilot scheme to deal with people who leave petrol stations without paying for their fuel is facing criticism.

It has been introduced in two districts – Lisburn and Castlereagh and Ards and North Down.

Police said research showed up to 85% of drive-offs are “genuine mistakes” that do not require their input. Now, petrol station retailers will be responsible for tracing drivers who do not pay.

Letters were sent to petrol stations in the two districts in July explaining the change, which came into effect at the start of August.

‘Washing their hands’

David Cardwell, who runs a petrol station in Portavogie, County Down, said the police were “washing their hands” of the issue. He said the new process means retailers will “have to send a letter to the Driver Vehicle and Licensing Agency (DVLA) to get the information on the car, which is a £2.50 fee and tell them that there’s been a criminal act”.

Retailers will then have to write to the driver to ask them if they were in the petrol station on a certain date and to ask them to pay for the fuel, said Mr Cardwell. [Fuel drips from the nozzle of petrol pump] Reuters the PSNI have said dealing with such cases is a substantial burden on their resources

He said the new system means if the person responsible does not pay up, retailers will have to take civil action through the courts.

“They (the PSNI) are not giving us any back up at all with it, they said they haven’t got the manpower to address it,” added Mr Cardwell. “If someone drives off with £10 of fuel then we have to add £2.50 onto it. It’s not worth chasing someone up for that, we’ll probably just have to write it off.”

DUP councillor for Ards and North Down, Robert Adair, described the scheme as a “free for all” that would lead to an increase in the number of people driving off without paying.

‘Substantial burden’

“I believe it’s the wrong approach for the police, they’re basically asking petrol stations to do the job for the police,” he said. “I am asking the PSNI to withdraw the scheme until there’s consultation with the local business community here, because we have solutions and a way forward that could resolve this.”

In a statement, the PSNI said that in the vast majority of such cases, their role was to help petrol stations recover civil debts, which was placing a “substantial but preventable burden” on police resources. “The purpose of this pilot is to remove much of that burden and free up local police time to deal with criminality, identify and apprehend offenders and keep people safe,” the statement added.

The PSNI said the scheme will be subject to an “ongoing review” to assess the impact on policing in the districts where it is being piloted.

Courtesy of BBC: