POLICE chiefs are investigating whether a rise in numberplate thefts is linked to a spike in petrol station drive-offs.
The past few months have seen a raft of reports of numberplates being stolen from vehicles across South Derbyshire.
As part of a bid to put an end to the problem, Derbyshire Police has been holding several events dishing out car safety advice and helping to fit tamper-proof screws to numberplates.
However, it has now emerged that a spike in people driving off without paying for petrol at forecourts across the area has seen officers looking at the possibility that the spike in both crimes could be linked.
The force is also targeting the worst-hit areas by going door to door to try to educate people about the issue.
Nigel Lidsey, section inspector for Derby South, said: "While we have started to see a noted rise in the levels of vehicle-related crime in the area, we still want to keep crime figures down.
"As a result we are going to follow up our successful initiatives where people can come for help and advice by heading out into the community and knocking on some doors.
"We hope that this will allow us to speak to people who perhaps may have been a victim of this type of crime and we can help them in terms of vehicle safety and crime prevention advice."
In the past few months special events have been held in Swadlincote, Hilton, Hatton, Etwall and Melbourne.
PC Vic Ball, from the Melbourne team, said: "Tamper-proof numberplate screws are fitted to car registration plates in order to prevent criminals from stealing them and using the plates in crime."
Chris Smith, the communities manager from the Safer South Derbyshire Partnership, said: "Theft of numberplates is a crime which causes inconvenience to the victim, along with the cost of buying replacements.
"By having these security screws fitted, it makes you less likely to become a victim of this crime.
"All you need to do is bring along your car, van or motorbike and we will install the screws – it only takes a couple of minutes."
People can contact their safer neighbourhood policing team for more information by calling 101, or by logging on to the website www.derbyshire.police.uk