A rise in number plate thefts is driving a spike in fuel drive-offs that is costing small business owners up to $15,000 a year, a business director says.

APCO director Peter Anderson said his franchisees were bearing the cost of the spike – sacrificing hundreds of dollars a week to pay for the thefts.

Mr Anderson said franchisees were seeing an increasing number of drive offs and increasing number of cars with stolen number plates.

“My poor franchisee has to pay me the money, if he loses $100 he has to give the money back. The small business owners are the ones paying,” Mr Anderson said.

“They feel it alright – if you get to the end of the month and have had seven, eight or nine drive offs that’s $1200 gone from the bottom line.

“Over a year that’s between $12,000 and $15,000.”

Mr Anderson labelled a parliamentary inquiry into the problem “pathetic” and said it had done nothing to stop the rising number of thefts.

Ballarat Superintendent Andrew Allen said the near 45 per cent increase in stolen number plates was continuing to drive other crime.

“In Ballarat we are seeing these number plate thefts occur predominately at residential addresses where there is limited off street parking or open access driveways,” Superintendent Allen said.

“It does also occur in community locations such as railway stations.

“Those stolen number plates are used to commit further crimes such as petrol theft, fare evasion and burglaries.”

Mr Anderson said police only pursued the drive-offs if there were stolen plates involved. He said station attendants had to call through the number plate and police would track if it was stolen or not.

He said he believed offenders were not scared of the penalties and felt they could get away with the theft without any penalties.

“There need to be greater penalties. The government needs to get serious about penalties,” Mr Anderson said.

He has also called for the compulsory fitting of one-way safety screws to all new cars.

“(Safe screws) should be compulsory. Simple things like that can make a different,” Mr Anderson said.

Superintendent Allen said police continued to promote safety screws through Operation Safe Place days largely run by the Neighbourhood Watch.

Extracted from The Courier.