August 10, 2015 12:10am  |  

THE Caboolture region is one of the worst in southeast Queensland when it comes to fuel thefts, with about 585 cases at just five petrol stations in the past 12 months.

The BP north and south bound on the Bruce Highway had some of the highest numbers in the southeast, with a combined 394 reported thefts in the past year.

That equated to about 70 per cent of offences in the area. Police said fuel was stolen in the vast majority of thefts.

With more than 1000 reported cases in the Moreton region this year, police have decided to declare war, saying those who stole, even with the intention of repaying the money, faced prosecution.

Burpengary Police officer in charge Senior Sergeant Ash Stanke said “acting as a civil debt collector” placed a very large strain on police resources.

“In the past many people would go in when they have no money, fill up and drive off. Then they would come back on pay day and give the money,” he said.

“This is not a line of credit. What we’re saying to service stations now is don’t feel obliged to withdraw the claim like they’ve done often in the past.

“The way forward for us is to take a hardline stance and increase prosecutions.”

With more than 2400 residents on Newstart, Caboolture’s high unemployment rate could be part of the problem, Caboolture Community Care manager Julie Hill said.

Ms Hill said unemployment could create a vicious cycle, especially with men in their late 20s to early 30s.

“They lose their job, go on Newstart and get their $500 a fortnight, but it’s often not enough for them to keep up, and they resort to stealing whether it be clothes or petrol because they need to get to a job interview,” she said.

BP said it took petrol drive-offs “very seriously” and was “working with police on the matter”.

Sen-Sgt Stanke applauded service stations that had upgraded surveillance.

“The two BP’s have recently upgraded their CCTV and one has got voice recording between the till operator and the customer, however we’re urging them to take more caution when it comes to turning on the pumps,” he said.

Matilda Caboolture owner/operator Stewart Dopheide said staff were always vigilant.

“If we see someone who we think maybe looks like they could drive off without paying, we will always have someone go outside so they know we are watching,” Mr Dopheide said.

“What we’re seeing a bit of now is people will fill up then come in to pay with a credit card and it won’t work, then they’ve got no form of payment.’’

The Queensland Motor Trades Assocation said new technology would lead to more offenders being caught.

“This new technology and increased police presence means it’s more likely than ever that if you steal fuel, you will be caught,” a statement said.

Extracted in full from: couriermail.com.au