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1,000 'dine and dash' cases recorded in Devon and Cornwall

1,000 'dine and dash' cases recorded in Devon and Cornwall

Published by Sarah Yeoman at 10:02am 9th May 2019. (Updated at 11:04am 9th May 2019)

It has been revealed more than 1,000 so-called 'dine-and-dash' incidents were recorded in Devon and Cornwall last year.

Those are people who eat at a restaurant and then run off without paying.

Industry representatives say leaving without paying for services including meals, petrol, or taxi journeys is akin to "stealing someone's wages", and could leave innocent people unable to provide for their families.

Home Office figures reveal Devon and Cornwall Police recorded 1,147 making off without payment offences in the 12 months to September 2018.

This was an increase of 20% compared to the same period in 2014-15. Despite the rise, the number of offenders being charged has fallen.

police officer

In 2014-15, the police brought charges 41 times, or in 4% of cases.

But by 2017-18, this had fallen to 3%, with charges brought just 37 times.

Making off without payment is when a person dishonestly leaves despite knowing that payment is due on the spot.

Offences have risen by 48% across England and Wales in the last three years, while the proportion of offenders being charged has fallen from just under 5% to less than 2%.

Federation of Small Businesses chairman Mike Cherry said the rise was being exacerbated by police cuts.

"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.

"If the police are not able to meet the needs of businesses across the country, then the Government should step in and give the authorities the funding they need to tackle this problem."

Mike Cherry, Federation of Small Businesses

restaurant eating food

The British Oil Security Syndicate, which helps recover debts for petrol stations, estimates that drive-offs at garage forecourts cost retailers around £20 million a year.

Some police forces claim such incidents are a civil rather than criminal matter and refuse to investigate, it added.

The vast majority of cases in Devon and Cornwall – 69% – were closed without a suspect being identified.

"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."

A Home Office spokesman

He added that police forces had been given their largest funding increase since 2010.

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