Petrol thieves have driven off without paying for fuel almost 200 times in St Helens this year.
Figures released under Freedom of Information rules reveal that to date, there have been 184 petrol-drive off offences recorded in the borough.
This has exceeded last year’s figure of 114, with two months remaining.
St Helens North was the most targeted area, with 100, followed by the central ward, with 47 and the south district with 37.
Of the 184 offences recorded, the offender has not been traced a staggering 161 times.
Only two offenders were charged or cautioned, with another given an alternative disposal. Ten people were handed a community resolution and 10 cases were still undergoing investigation.
Over the last four years there have been 495 petrol station drive-offs, with this year’s figure reaching a record high.
Chief Insp Jonathan Davies, of St Helens police, said: “Our message is simple, this type of crime is not acceptable – it is not a victimless crime, and businesses can and do suffer as a result of such thefts.
“Most petrol stations in St Helens have high-grade CCTV and some have Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras installed.
“Officers are continually working to ensure that crime prevention advice and guidance is given and the necessary safety measures are already in place, especially following an incident. Proactive policing takes place around this type of crime.
“Working with partners in business, we will thoroughly investigate such incidents, and where possible put offenders before the courts.”