By Megan Bailey, 08 July 2015

A MELBOURNE fuel station ­operator says petrol drive-offs are happening every two days and has called for more action from police.

The Berwick operator, who did not wish to be named, said the average drive-off cost between $70 and $90 and the problem was increasing.

“I think one reason for the drive-offs is that they never get penalised or the penalty is so small it is not really enough to stop them,” he said.

“It’s getting worse ­compared with 10 years ago and five years ago.”

The man said many police officers didn’t take the issue seriously and he was starting to think there was little point in reporting incidents.

“Nine out of 10 times there is no response from the police station,” he said.

Geoff Gwilym, executive director of Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce, which represents petrol stations, said drive-offs cost Victorian station owners about $20 million a year.

Mr Gwilym said the prepay system police wanted ­station ­operators to introduce cost up to $20,000.

The group has called for Victoria Police to set up a website where station owners could log details and footage of drive-offs to help identify repeat offenders.

Mr Gwilym said many police told operators petrol drive-offs were a civil matter as it couldn’t be proven that the driver didn’t get distracted and forget to pay.

He said station operators who want to sue drivers who don’t pay for fuel had to pay $1000 to the Supreme Court to get access to the drivers’ details from VicRoads and most said it was not worth doing that for $80 worth of stolen fuel.

Victoria Police spokeswoman Natalie Webster said due to the parliamentary inquiry into petrol thefts it would be “unwise for us to specifically comment”.

“It is important to clarify that where there is clear ­evidence of a theft of petrol, Victoria Police acts and thoroughly investigates,” Ms Webster said.

Extracted in full from the Herald Sun.