Today forecourt crime is an all too familiar occurrence and our data suggests that the Covid-19 crisis has accelerated the rate at which it is increasing.
When lockdown began in March, at first Drive-Off incident reports recorded by BOSS increased but then they fell back as traffic levels plummeted. However, the volume of No Means of Payment (NMoP) incidents remained consistent with pre-lockdown volumes.
Now that economic activity has started to increase we are seeing an acceleration in incidents being reported. This year the average value of each incident rose above £50 for the first time since records began and, even with fuel prices falling, Drive-Off and NMoP incidents are rising steadily in terms of both cost and numbers.
During the recession that followed the financial crisis of 2008 the forecourt sector experienced a similar surge in fuel theft. Our response to that surge led to the introduction of BOSS Payment Watch. It’s proved to be a scheme that’s given forecourt operators the ability to take collective responsibility and respond to forecourt crime. We only have to involve the police when there have been threats of violence and multiple offenders.
We have learnt a lot about how motorists react when faced with no ability to pay. In conjunction with forecourt operators we’ve developed processes that respect a genuine mistake but are robust enough to deal with offenders. As a result Payment Watch has become a deterrent to ward-off potential offenders and encourage motorists who claim NMoP to return and pay for fuel drawn.
Our research has also revealed that those who intentionally evade payment have not become any more sophisticated. The methods and techniques being used today are very similar to those being used more than a decade ago. What has changed is the growing pressure on operator and police resources.
The financial impact of forecourt crime is significant. BOSS research has found that the annual cost of Drive-Off and NMoP incidents is considerably more than the £30 million it was in 2010. Forecourt retailers who invest in developing skills among their staff to identify and deal with threats are rewarded with lower levels of crime and greater success in recovering losses when they occur.
As the Nation continues to unlock and get back to work, all the indicators point to another recession. How deep it gets and how quickly we get out of it only time will tell. What we now know is that where we take responsibility and harness our resources then we can, and will, deal more effectively with crime on forecourts.
BOSS Executive Director
This article appeared in the July 2020 issue of Forecourt Trader