Geraldine Cardozo, 17 September 2015

PETROL thieves raiding Central Coast service stations are stealing about $50,000 of fuel a year and the number of drive-offs across the region has increased.

Police are targeting fuel drive-offs with up to 15 petrol thefts reported a week in Wyong Shire alone, according to police, and about 500 fail-to-pay offences in the last financial year.

In neighbouring Gosford City, just over 250 fuel thefts occurred in the same period.

Coastwide fraud offences, of which about half are fuel thefts, have seen a 15 per cent leap from the previous 12-month period, ­according to Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research figures.

The Australasian Convenience and Petroleum Marketers Association said it has “major concerns” about the increase in fuel drive-offs around the region.

“We recently looked at WA and Victoria and noticed a tripling of fuel thefts in both states. While fuel thefts in NSW have increased, but not at the same level, this is still a perennial problem,” ACAPMA chief Mark McKenzie said.

Association chief Mark ­McKenzie said some thieves see service stations as “easy targets” and “fair game”.

However, Mr McKenzie said, the people who are losing out are local franchisees and small family businesses on the Coast.

“People think it’s an easy opportunity and that they’re stealing from major fuel companies. But what many don’t realise is three out of four service stations are small businesses operating under a franchise,” Mr ­McKenzie said.

In Tuggerah Lakes Local Area Command (LAC), police are called to at least one fuel drive-off a day.

“We get between 11 and 30 reported frauds a week and up to half of these are people driving off without paying for fuel,” Tuggerah Lakes LAC Crime Manager Inspector David Waddell said.

He said people need to realise failing to pay for fuel is a criminal offence.

“These matters will be ­investigated and criminal action taken where sufficient evidence exists, with fines of up to $1200.”

In Brisbane Water LAC, where the Property Crime Team follows up on all ­reported fuel thefts, police are already noticing a spike since the last figures were released at the end of June.

“Fail to pay accounted for 42 per cent of reported frauds in the last financial year, and since then we’re already seeing just over a third of frauds are fuel thefts,” Brisbane Water Crime Prevention Officer Senior Constable Corina Hassett said.

“There is definitely an ­increase and in some cases these vehicles are then used in more serious crimes.”

Mr McKenzie said fuel drive-offs are a “dangerous practice”. “People driving off without paying for fuel often aren’t looking out for other people or vehicles on the forecourt,” he added.

Wyong ‘one of the worst’ for car thefts

THIEVES targeting car keys in home break-ins could be behind a wave of vehicles being stolen from driveways on the Central Coast.

It comes as Wyong Shire has been named one of the state’s worst hot spots for car theft.

Figures show seven out of 10 cars are stolen when criminals break into houses and steal the keys.

“Ten years ago, commuter carparks and shopping centre carparks were the hot spots, now 70 per cent of cars are stolen outside a residence,” National Motor ­Vehicle Theft Reduction Council head Ray Carroll said.

About 30 cars a month are stolen in Wyong Shire, the eighth worst Local Government Area (LGA) in the state for vehicle theft.

“There does seem to be a bit of a trend of people breaking into homes and taking car keys,” Tuggerah Lakes Acting Commander Chief Inspector Rod Peat said.

“But while people think there’s a pandemic, it roughly equates to only about one car a day being stolen.

“In Wyong Shire there are actually a lot fewer vehicle thefts than there used to be which was at times up to 150 a month.”

According to Bureau of Crime Statistics and ­Research figures there were 464 vehicle thefts in Wyong Shire (on average 38 a month) in the 12 months to June, a drop of 7.4 per cent from the previous year.

In Gosford LGA, there were 266 reported vehicle thefts, down 20 per cent on the previous year.

Insp Peat said the prevalence of commuters parking their cars for long periods in the Wyong Shire could be adding to the high number of vehicle thefts.

“There is also a bit of a country mentality, and people become complacent and leave their keys lying around or don’t lock their car,” he said.

Extracted in full from the Daily Telegraph.