Peter Strachan, 08 October 2015

CASEY police have stepped up their efforts to curtail an epidemic of petrol drive-offs across the city in recent months.

Detective Acting Sergeant Jason Reynolds said patrols of petrol stations by both uniformed and plainclothes police and had been significantly increased in a bid to deter offenders.

“We’re also working more closely with service station operators in a bid to get better crime prevention measures in place and better positioning of security cameras to get us the best possible images,” Sgt Reynolds said.

“We are also trying to encourage more motorists to affix numberplates with security screws, to cut thefts of plates and reduce their availability for use in drive-offs. It’s an ongoing fight, but deliberate drive-offs are theft and those caught face prosecution.”

It follows a series of Leader reports on the escalating problem of fuel theft across the city, including:

— February 15: police say some petrol station owners deducting employees’ pay to cover the cost of fuel stolen during petrol drive-offs,

— June 19: Cranbourne named Victoria’s worst suburb for fuel theft, averaging 10 drive-offs a month,

— July 8: Berwick fuel station ­operator tells Leader petrol drive-offs are happening every two days, with the average cost between $70 and $90,

— August 14: desperate petrol station operators offer rewards for help catching petrol thieves, with Apco stations in Casey setting up a ‘shame file’ of thieves caught on security cameras.

Victorian Automobile Chamber of Comerce (VACC) spokesman David Dowsey said his organisation welcomed increased police efforts to cut fuel theft.

He said more patrols, particularly by unmarked police cars, around petrol stations could play a part. “But we would also like to see police respond more readily to fuel theft, follow-up on the provided evidence and convict more of the culprits.”

The VACC recently estimated petrol drive-offs across Casey were costing service stations an average of $400 a month, with some topping $1000.

APCO Service Stations spokesman Peter Anderson said the group hoped the state government inquiry currently underway would result in greater police action against thieves.

“Petrol theft is a real problem for service station operators and we really need police to take the strongest action possible to stamp out the practice,” Mr Anderson said.

Extracted in full from the Cranbourne Leader.