Hundreds of ‘thieves’ dodge bills for food, petrol and taxis
- Credit: Archant
Hundreds of diners ran off without paying their food bills in Avon and Somerset last year.
Industry representatives say leaving without paying for services including meals, petrol, or taxi journeys is akin to 'stealing someone's wages', and could leave people unable to provide for their families.
According to Home Office figures, Avon and Somerset Constabulary recorded 1,424 offences where people made off without payment from September 2017-18.
Dom Lamy, manager of Puro in Clevedon, said he has not had issues with customers leaving without paying, but he loses money when people do not show up for tables they have booked.
He said: "We probably get about five to 10 no-shows a month but that's worth about £300.
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"It's not just us, I know a few other places in Clevedon have problems, but it's not as bad as in Bristol.
"As a whole, Clevedon customers are quite courteous but no-shows are still quite detrimental as we have to get staff in and buy fresh food."
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The number of dine-and-dashers has dropped by 19 per cent compared to three years ago, however the proportion of offenders being charged by police has fallen.
In 2014-15, the police brought charges in five per cent of cases, compared to two per cent in 2017-18.
Federation of Small Businesses chairman Mike Cherry said the rise was being exacerbated by police cuts. He said: "This can't be allowed to continue - lots of businesses have very tight margins and it's time to stop tolerating opportunistic thieves taking food off the family table."
The British Oil Security Syndicate estimates drive-offs at garage forecourts cost retailers around £20million a year.
Taxi firms also suffer big losses when people run off without paying, however offences are not always investigated by police.
In Avon and Somerset, 67 per cent of cases were closed without a suspect being identified.
A Home Office spokesman said: "These offences place a significant burden on businesses, both in terms of financial loss and staff resources.
"We expect the police to take all reported crimes seriously and it is the responsibility of chief constables and Police and Crime Commissioners to make sure criminal cases are investigated properly."