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Police to ‘steal’ petrol blueprint
AN award-winning scheme aimed at tackling petrol thefts in Cherwell could be rolled out to other areas.
The Vehicle Identity Protection Scheme (VIPS) was introduced in Bicester, Banbury and Kidlington last April after the amount of number plate thefts and fuel forcecourt thefts shot up by 246 per cent.
In its first six months, police have seen dramatic reductions.
Between April and June 2012 there was a 67.4 per cent drop in number plate thefts and a 44.3 per cent fall in the number of people filling up their cars with fuel and driving off without paying.
As part of the initiative Forecourt Watch was set up to tackle the problem head-on.
It saw dozens of garages across Cherwell sign up to the scheme, in which details of stolen number plates are passed to them as soon as they are reported.
There is also a radio system linking them to each other and police.
Garages in the initiative also fit anti-theft number plate screws as part of an MOT, and screws are available free from police stations in Bicester, Banbury and Kidlington.
Supt Andy Boyd, who set up the scheme, said: “There had been an increasing number of thefts of car number plates, and a rise in petrol thefts from forecourts.
“The two crimes are linked. Stolen registration plates are used by thieves who drive away from petrol stations without paying for fuel.
“They are also used by criminals who commit serious crimes that require getaway cars. Number plate thieves can also avoid speeding fines, parking tickets and congestion charges.
“The innocent owners of the plates are usually the first to be questioned by police investigating the crimes — and receive letters demanding payment of speeding and parking fines.”
Figures show between April and June last year, there were just 14 number plate thefts compared with 43 in 2011, and between July and September 2012, number plate thefts fell from 27 in 2011 to 14 last year.
Fuel thefts have also reduced from 86 between April and June 2010, to 47 in the same period during 2012, and from July to September last year, there were 56 cases compared to 61 in the same period in 2011.
Co-ordinator of the Cherwell Crime Partnership June Lynes said: “We have been approached by other local police areas within the force as they have been impressed with the report we produced for our internal newspaper about the reduction.
“I have had interest from Reading and Milton Keynes LPAs, who have been interested in how we have done it.”
The scheme was funded by a £10,896 grant from the Government’s Community Action Against Crime Innovation Fund, awarded to the Cherwell Crime Partnership. The initiative won a partnership innovation award from the Association of Business Crime Partnerships’ Partnership Excellence Awards 2012.