POLICE are urging motorists to be on their guard following a spate of thefts of diesel from vehicles.
Officers from Peterlee Neighbourhood Policing Team say there have been around 15 such thefts from vehicles in Peterlee so far this month alone.
They say as well as large lorries being targeted, cars and vans have also had fuel stolen.
Officers are putting the increasing cost of diesel down to the recent increase in offences.
Fuel is being stolen from lorries either while they are parked in their yards or while drivers are taking breaks in lorry parks and laybys.
PC Andrea Wearmouth said as well as syphoning off diesel, thieves are also cutting fuel pipes to obtain the diesel and then sell it on.
Police have launched an awareness campaign and have distributed posters, letters and stickers to companies and actively going out to speak to lorry drivers to warn them of the incidents.
PC Wearmouth said: “This is a force-wide issue.
“The thieves are targeting any type of vehicle, but particularly the larger lorries to get more fuel from them.
“Diesel can account for up to 42 per cent of the running cost within the transport industry and with rising operating costs, no company big or small can afford to lose diesel through theft.
“This is why we have made it a priority crime to be targeted.”
Companies are being encouraged to add diesel dye as a visible marking system that may help in the fight against fuel theft.
Anyone with information about the thefts, or any companies requiring crime prevention advice, can call Peterlee Police on the non-emergency number 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.