A police crackdown on forecourt fuel theft has revealed a worrying number of uninsured drivers.

Lewisham police introduced London's first Forecourt Watch scheme on December 11, in conjunction with the British Oil Security Syndicate.

Officers working on the 25 participating forecourts in the area use a laptop computer to enter number plates into the Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) system that checks for offences such as driving without insurance, a licence or tax and outstanding warrants. It also makes it easier for police to follow up crimes such as fuel and shop theft.

Lewisham's detective inspector Larry Lawrence said the scheme had forced a drop in the monthly forecourt crime level from 50 offences to 29.

By the second day of the scheme, officers had arrested several people for driving without insurance.

DI Lawrence said many drivers were willing to take the risk of being caught without insurance, as the fine was often less than the cost of insurance.

“It's something people try to take advantage of,” he said.

The scheme will run until March but DI Lawrence said he would look into the use of the Motor Insurance Database, which was launched late last year by the Motor Insurers' Information Centre.