TAXI drivers and police officers in Amesbury are working together to tackle the number of people making off without paying for their fares.

Police are reminding people, especially those using taxis after nights out, that refusing to pay for a taxi fare is a criminal offence which could result in a conviction.

They have launched a campaign with local taxi drivers to raise awareness following an increase of the issue.

Sgt Ricky Lee, from the Amesbury Neighbourhood Police Team, said: “We are concerned that taxi drivers feel vulnerable during the night time economy - that matters to us. The idea behind the campaign is to highlight to people that it is a serious offence to make off without paying.”

Taxi driver Dave McHugh said many drivers have stopped working at night so they don't have to deal with the problem.

“It's been more of an issue with the economy as it is,” he said. “The problem has always been there but the recession has made it a lot worse. Fuel prices have also gone up for us so that pushes taxi prices up as well. Pennies are tighter and while people can still afford to go out, they argue the cost of a taxi.”

There will be more police officers out on the streets as part of the campaign, as well as posters displayed around the town and in taxis.

Sgt Lee said: “We want the taxi drivers to know that we take them seriously. We can't do our job without taxi drivers, it is about partnership working. If taxi drivers don't come out to move people on from outside pubs and clubs then we have people loitering in the streets, and that creates an atmosphere for residents and there is more likely to be antisocial behaviour.” While reported antisocial behaviour in the town is down by 40 per cent, Sgt Lee said it is still a particular problem in the early hours of the morning when pubs close.

Mr McHugh said: “We are all after the same thing: a better, safer, hassle free environment for us to work in.”