Karen Collier, 08 September 2015

DRIVERS caught with stolen numberplates could have their cars confiscated in a bold bid to fight fuel theft.

Service stations are pushing for an expansion of anti-hoon laws to discourage fuel drive-offs as research shows three in four independent outlets are regular victims of fuel theft.

The Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce also wants anti-theft screws fitted to numberplates on all new cars and at roadworthies.

Police intelligence supports a link between numberplate and fuel thefts.

Some retailers are struck at least four times a week and lose sales of more than $1100 a month, a VACC survey found.

Parliament’s fuel drive-off inquiry was told stolen numberplates were often used to disguise vehicles and commit other crimes such as fuel theft.

“There should be an expansion of the hoon legislation to include the impounding of offenders’ own vehicles that have been detected with stolen numberplates, similar to legislation taken to address drink-driving offences over the 0.1 blood alcohol level,” spokesman David Dowsey said.

Hoons can have cars seized for 30 days. Repeat offenders risk permanent forfeiture.

The police recorded 12,537 numberplate thefts in 2013-14, up 20 per cent on a year earlier.

The Australasian Conven­ience and Petroleum Marketers Association said fuel theft had tripled in the two years since Victoria Police stopped investigating incidents unless there was criminality such as stolen cars or numberplates.

Retailers have been urged to adopt crime-prevention tactics such as security cameras and prepay technology.

VACC’s survey of 170 outlets found one in three thefts was not reported, with paltry police action blamed.

“In an industry where margins are very low, often around 2 per cent, the added impost of fuel theft is a significant cost for many independent retailers,” Mr Dowsey said.

Theft hot spots are Melbourne’s north, northwest, east and outer east, Ballarat, the Wimmera and Gippsland.

The Law Reform, Road and Community Safety Committee’s inquiry report is due to be tabled in December.

Extracted in full from the Herald Sun.