Rise in drive-offs hits servos

IPSWICH service stations are unlikely to adopt a “pay up before you fill up” policy as a means of deterring thieves, despite continuing problems with drive-off offences.

Increases in general living expenses have been blamed for a spike in incidents in which motorists deliberately leave a service station without paying for fuel.

While recent statistics on fuel theft were not available before time of print yesterday, Ipswich crime tactician Acting Senior Sergeant Liz Burns-Hutchison said a jump in cases was often reported whenever the price of fuel increased.

Retailers have also reported an increase in instances where motorists fill up before realising they do not have enough money to pay – which is not a criminal offence unless the customer leaves the premises without organising payment.

Motor Trades Association of Queensland spokesman Richard Payne said the high level of co-operation that existed between fuel retailers and Queensland Police meant a very low number of thieves escaped prosecution.

“The likelihood of them being caught has increased with the number of service stations that have improved their surveillance equipment,” Mr Payne said. “We’ve also got one of the best reporting systems anywhere, with police able to separate drive-off offences going back for the last five years.”

Across Queensland, there is an average of 1.45 incidents of fuel theft per 1000 cars on the road – estimated to be the equivalent of about one theft in every 16,000 fills.

While a pay-before-you-fill policy has been introduced in some crime hot spots after 6pm, Mr Payne said it simply wasn’t warranted in most places.

Major retailers including BP and Shell agreed, as did local independent retailer Kangaroo Fuels, despite dealing with spates of crime every few months.

The Leichhardt service station’s manager, Justin Collet, said making customers pay before they filled their tank had the potential to create more problems than it solved.

“A customer might come in and pay for fuel at a particular pump, but then someone else pulls up and starts using it,” Mr Collet said.

“At the moment we feel it is not warranted. We experience waves of theft every few months but very few people get away with it.”

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