PETROL bandits have stolen more than $44,000 worth of fuel from service stations across Hume in the past three years.

A Victorian Automotive Chamber of Commerce survey found the municipalities of Hume, Brimbank and Casey accounted for almost half of the state’s petrol drive-offs in the past decade, with more than 9700 incidents in the three regions.

Victoria Police statistics show there were 255 fuel drive-offs reported in Hume between July 2015 and June this year, compared to 207 in the previous 12-month period.

Senior Sergeant Phil Nash from Craigieburn police station said there was usually a spike in drive-offs when fuel prices rose.

“Police consider it theft and we will investigate it as such,” he said.

He suggested fulltime prepaid petrol pumps could be a solution to the problem.

The manager of a Hume Caltex service station, Sam (who didn’t want his surname used), said his business experienced between three to four drive-offs every week.

“It comes from my pocket when they steal it,” he said.

Sam said since 2013, a service station had to provide police with evidence of criminal behaviour or intent, such as proving a driver meant to steal the petrol or that the car was stolen. If unable to do so, the business had to seek payment from the motorist.

“Thieves are very smart and they know this,” he said.

Earlier this month the State Government’s parliamentary inquiry into fuel drive-offs recommended the development of a Victoria Police fuel drive-off crime prevention guide and providing officers with clear advice on how to prosecute drive-offs, where there was evidence of criminal conduct.

Extracted from the Herald Sun.