Sneaky drivers who try to flee fuel forecourts without paying have more than tripled in recent years, statistics have shown.
Figures show that in the past five years more than 458 thefts have been reported from petrol stations across both Mansfield and Ashfield.
In Mansfield alone, incidents have increased sharply in the space of three years, from 20 reported in 2012 to 69 in 2015.
Despite this, district commander Inspector Nick Butler was not worried by the statistics.
He said: “There has been a slight increase overall in the number of incidents, but there’s also been an increase in the number of vehicles on the road.
“There is no trend to it really, it’s something that happens from time to time, and with fuel prices lower than usual it can affect the number of thefts.”
However, he says that technology means the culprits can be easily caught.
Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras mean data from vehicles driving into forecourts can almost be processed immediately, particularly useful for those try to use false number plates.
Failing that, forecourts are usually covered by high-definition CCTV cameras, making the culprits easily identifiable.
And Insp Butler says those who are caught will feel the full force of the law.
He said: “We work with the vendors to put simple precautions in place, like CCTV cameras and ANPR systems.
“Almost all of the forecourts have CCTV or ANPR cameras, it’s high-value theft when you think about the money involved with the price of fuel, so we do prosecute people.
“We work very closely with fuel providers in this situation.”
While there has been a spike in fuel thefts in Mansfield since 2011, overall, there have been more in Ashfield over that period.
There have been 214 in Mansfield, with 244 in Ashfield.
Of the combined total, 161 were reported as unleaded thefts, with 91 diesel. The remainder were not specified.
Among the garages named were Huthwaite Service Station, Ladybrook Service Station, Leeming Lane Shell garage and Rosemary Street Service Station, as well as supermarket stations from Tesco, Asda, and Morrisons.