‘Digital detective’ leads hunt for UK’s £30 million fuel thieves

A NATIONAL crime-reporting platform that uses powerful ‘digital detective’ technology to help retailers save police time and effort in collecting evidence is turning its attention to fuel thieves.

Theft from petrol forecourts, including so-called ‘drive off’ offenders increasingly operating in organised gangs, and motorists who claim to have no means of payment, has reached record levels.

Facewatch, working in a new partnership with Forecourt Eye, is planning to roll out its technology to petrol retailers nationwide. The platform includes a secure cloud-hosted automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) system linked to CCTV cameras to identify suspect vehicles and send out automatic alerts to warn retailers of potential fuel theft threats.

Latest figures presented to the Home Office estimate around one million incidents are reported in the UK annually, costing petrol retailers more than £31 million* in total – an average of £3,600 per forecourt.

Facewatch Founder and Chairman Simon Gordon said:

“Facewatch’s partnership with Forecourt Eye heralds a new era in the crack down on fuel theft. Using our technology, businesses can upload CCTV footage, images and information about suspects to compile digital evidence files, including witness statements, which can be instantly reported to police.

“Subscribers can also share pictures and number plates with local forecourts and use our secure Cloud based Automated Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) system to receive alerts when known offenders drive into their forecourt. The next step in our development is to combine this with facial recognition software, which is being tested and will be ready to deploy within weeks.”

Forecourt Eye is an industry response to a growing crime wave and as well as its partnership with Facewatch, the company works closely with the Petrol Retailers Association (PRA) to reduce criminal activity and improve safety of employees.

Nick Fisher, CEO of Forecourt Eye, commented:

“Our system allows the forecourt industry to take steps to tackle a fast-growing menace that is costing retailers millions of pounds every year. The sophisticated online tools we provide also offer enhanced protection for forecourt staff, providing an instant and direct link to police that improves conviction rates and acts as a very visible and effective deterrent.

“We believe this is one of the most significant advances in crime-prevention in the petrol retailing industry in decades.”

Facewatch enables organisations to report crimes online and submit moving and still CCTV images as evidence to the police, as well as share this imagery between businesses in related subscribed groups (in compliance with Data Protection guidelines) to reduce crime.

Since Facewatch was founded in 2010, it has worked closely with police throughout the UK and has achieved “Secured by Design” status, the official UK Police flagship initiative restricted to companies or products that have been successfully tested to exacting standards.

Facewatch enables crimes to be reported to any police force in England and Wales and for the user to receive an official police crime reference back within 72 hours.

Facewatch’s facial recognition technology has been launched in partnership with Allevate’s cloud-hosted Face-Searcher service, initially in Brazil. Following extensive testing, Facewatch is now gearing up for its UK launch.

The new feature will enable Facewatch subscribers to instantly and automatically share their images of ‘subjects of interest’ to watch lists, thereby allowing real-time alerting if someone entering a premises is a known offender.