The most common areas for petrol theft in Sussex have been revealed amid a fall in the number of incidents across the county.
The latest annual figures show 384 incidents of motorists filling their vehicles before driving off without paying – otherwise known as bilking.
Figures from Sussex Police included 50 incidents of bilking in Brighton and Hove from July 2012 to July 2013, making it the second-worst offending area in Sussex behind Horsham, which had 51 thefts.
But Brighton and Hove’s figures are down from 78 the year before.
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Other top offending areas included Wealden with 45, Haywards Heath with 31 and Worthing with 27.
The best performing areas last year included Adur with 1 and Eastbourne with 11.
The 384 thefts across Sussex was down 284 on the previous year and saw a drop of 804 from five years ago.
Julie Webb, manager of the Shell garage in Preston Road, Brighton, said thieves targeted her garage “once or twice a month”.
She added: “It’s a regular occurrence.
“We haveCCTVrunning all the time and assess the drivers before we allow the pumps to be used to make sure they’re not previous offenders. We have plenty of signs up letting people know we prosecute and we work closely with the police, but we still get them.
“Unfortunately for the staff the lost revenue comes out of their wages if it’s deemed to be their fault. For example if they were playing on their phone and didn’t realise someone had driven off.”
A spokesman for the AA said he was “surprised” figures for Sussex had fallen.
He added: “In other areas of the country, in the Midlands for example, petrol theft is on the increase.
“I don’t think the drop in Sussex figures is related to petrol prices or the economy because fuel is still fairly high. It’s certainly more expensive compared to five years ago. It’s probably down to more sophisticated ways of preventing the thefts. The cashiers usually assess the customer through the windowbefore allowing the pumps to be used and some garages have bollards which rise up if payment isn’t made.
“I’m sure it’s not a case of fewer thieves, but better prevention.”