Petrol stations introduce monitoring system to spot stolen cars

Every year the Czech police are alerted to around 15,000 stolen cars, though on average only around 3,000 of them get returned to their owners. Now the police may get help in tracking them down from an unexpected quarter: the country’s petrol station owners are introducing a new monitoring system to alert officers to stolen vehicles.

Photo: Barbora Kmentová
Every year over 20,000 drivers stop at a petrol station to fill up their tank and leave without paying. Even if employees notice the car’s license plate they rarely get their money back, because in most cases the cars are stolen and on their way out of the Czech Republic.

Now petrol station owners have decided on a common strategy: to introduce a camera system linked to the police register of stolen vehicles. An instant blockage mechanism would prevent such drivers from filling up. Pavel Novak heads the company which delivered the tailor-made software:

“The impulse is immediate. The system does a lightening check with the police register of stolen vehicles, and if it finds a match it will automatically stop the flow of petrol. In the time it normally takes for the system to re-set for the next client it will have the necessary information.”

Test runs have proved successful and the new computer system will gradually be introduced at petrol stations around the country, starting with those that have registered the biggest losses. With petrol stations losing around 15 to 20 million crowns annually they figure the investment is well-made. Meanwhile, the police have welcomed the move saying time is essential in tracing stolen cars. Andrea Zoulova is a police spokeswoman:

“Tracing stolen cars and identifying the culprits is never easy primarily because it is a question of time. We would be happy if petrol station owners not only reported the stolen vehicles in question but if they could also give us a description of the person driving it.”

Together with security stickers on cars – a system that the Czech police introduced ten years ago after the British model – the monitoring system at petrol stations is expected to help reduce a problem that has plagued Czech society for years.