A SPIKE in drive-through petrol thefts has sparked a police crackdown across Wrexham.

North Wales Police say there has been a sharp increase in the number of people filling their tanks and driving away without paying from Wrexham town centre filling stations.

Sergeant Nick Evans believes the increase is a direct result of soaring petrol prices.

He said: “The economic situation is driving people who wouldn’t normally break the law to take desperate measures.

“Theft of fuel offences have risen across the country and can be attributed to the rising cost of fuel.

“But we’re developing a strategy to stamp out this trend before the number of incidents increases any further.”

The force has teamed up with Wrexham Council and petrol stations across the town centre in a bid to bring the thieves to justice.

According to Sergeant Evans the town’s petrol stations already have good quality CCTV systems installed, but automatic number plate recognition technology (ANPR), used to identify a car and list any offences associated with that vehicle, is being rolled out across the town.

Sergeant Evans explained: “The ANPR system means the number plate of every vehicle which passes a station’s CCTV camera is automatically recognised and recorded.

“The system can be connected to a database which can alert the operator to the fact that the number plates are stolen or have been subject to previous offences.

“Petrol stations are also now connected to the Crimelink network, a radiolink designed to alert fellow town centre outlets of potential threats and gives them instant access to Wrexham Council’s CCTV network.

“It is an extremely powerful tool in assisting the police in identifying and locating the offending vehicles.

“We’re really pushing the technology’s capabilities now because the system is only as useful as those using it, the more information station managers upload the better the system works.”

And the scheme is already becoming a success as Sergeant Evans revealed enough intelligence has been compiled to carry out arrests in the near future.

Sergeant Evans added: “Through this initiative the police are taking a firm stance on people committing these offences and are seizing and potentially crushing the offenders vehicles.”