Peter Carruthers, 16 January 2016

A SPATE of petrol station drive-offs this week has prompted a notice from police reminding drivers that not paying for petrol is a crime.

Last Thursday, Friday and again on Monday, the Caltex service station in Cannonvale was forced to contact Whitsunday Police after recording the registration numbers of offending vehicles.

Manager of the Cannonvale Caltex, Nerissa Mendoza, said there had been a recent increase in people filling up and driving off without paying.

Most service stations are equipped with CCTV technology but if the attendant is unable to manually record a registration number the resolution of CCTV footage may not be clear enough to identify the offenders.

“(And) the police said if we don’t have the rego number we can’t do anything about it,” Ms Mendoza said.

Though some drive-offs were honest mistakes others we deliberate attempts to steal fuel, she said.

Ms Mendoza said if the owner of the car was identified through the recording of number plates some people came back and paid, but others didn’t.

“It makes me angry because at the end of the day (I feel like) it’s my fault…it’s my responsibility to make sure they come in any pay,” she said. “(And) if I don’t the area manager will come back and ask me ‘what happened there, why you didn’t check?’.”

Ms Mendoza said on Friday a man filled up a jerry can while there were three people lining up at the checkout.

“I am busy serving a customer (and) the next thing he is gone,” she said.

Ms Mendoza estimates the Cannonvale Caltex loses about $300 a month in fuel drive-offs.

Officer in Charge of Whitsunday Police, Senior Sergeant Nathan Blain, said while honest mistakes did happen, people found to be purposefully driving off without paying for fuel would be charged with stealing. Investigations into alleged drive-offs at the Cannonvale Caltex are continuing.

Extracted in full from the Whitsunday Times.