DESPERATE criminals are turning to fuel theft as the recession continues to bite across Chester.
Cheshire Police in the Western Rural area have reported an increase in drive-off crimes from garages over the past 12 months.
Inspector Phil Hodgson says that his Neighbourhood Policing Unit is working with businesses to combat the problem.
He said: “We have got to look at social trends and I have noticed the greatest increase in fuel thefts.
“Drive offs from garage forecourts and it is becoming a problem.
“It is anything from £10 to £70 but we are working with the owners of the garages and the British Oil Security Syndicate to address this issue.”
Overall crime in rural Chester has dropped 5.6% in the last year while Insp Hodgson revealed that, despite increasing numbers of thefts and burglary in rural areas across the UK, such offences are down by 7.8%.
It comes after the National Farmers Union Mutual insurance group reported a huge increase in claims being made by rural residents after criminal activity.
Aside from burglary, NFU Mutual claim there is a nationwide epidemic of thefts from domestic central heating oil tanks in rural areas.
Spokesman Tim Price said: “We have seen sharp increases in rural crime in previous economic downturns – and are concerned that these worrying figures could mark the first evidence of a new rural crime wave.”
But part from the rising number of drive-off thefts from petrol stations and garages, Insp Hodgson confirmed that overall crime has been reduced in the western rural area of Cheshire.
“We have seen a reduction in crime because we have had some success in targeting well known criminals in our area who are now in custody,” he added.