Petrol stations in Blacktown are losing thousands of dollars as police cite a rise in fuel theft across Blacktown.
Data from the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research shows there were close to 1300 fail-to-pay offences in the Blacktown Local Government Area last year — an average of 25 a week.
In the first three months of this year alone, local service stations have reported 228 cases of fuel theft to police.
Mt Druitt Police Area Command Detective Chief Inspector Paul Tickner said officers were dealing with a rising number of cases.
“Every year for the past 10 years, fraud seems to be tracking up,” Chief Inspector Tickner said.
“In the last couple of months, we’ve seen a spike in failure to pay for petrol.”
A round robin of operators indicated a common target for thieves was the M4 Caltex twin service in Eastern Creek, due to its high traffic volume.
Speedway Blacktown Rd co-owner Naran Chabhariya said his service station was struck an average of five times a month.
He said while some were repeat offenders, about two in 10 came back to pay.
“People that do the drive-offs want a full tank. It doesn’t matter if the price is low or high, they will do it regardless,” Mr Chabhariya said.
He said some offenders went to extreme measures to get away with the crime, disguising their number plates or altering them with printed out numbers or letters.
Speedway operations manager Jamil El-Khoury said the number of incidents reported to police was just the tip of the iceberg, with operators frustrated with low prosecution rates.
Fed up with fuel thieves, Mr El-Khoury has banded together with service station operators and created a name and shame Facebook page for alleged offenders.
“We want to push for more powers for police in terms of new laws. The police don’t take too much action because it is becoming a nuisance for them and they tend to put it under the rug or address very few,” Mr El-Khoury said.
“The page was created by us because we are frustrated and want to put more awareness out there, name and shame and get more exposure.
“Less than 10 per cent of incidents we’re seeing end up in court. Unless you have a serial offender, they are not going to be charged.”
Mr El-Khoury said fuel theft did not discriminate.
“There’s no demographic or age bracket or spectrum for it anymore,” he said.
NRMA spokeswoman Bridget Ahern said independent retailers and franchisees were hardest hit by the crime.
“Not paying for your fuel is a crime and the penalties are harsh,” Ms Ahern said.
“Many service stations have now installed number plate scanning technology, so your chances of getting caught are high.
“You wouldn’t eat a meal and then not pay the bill, so don’t fill up without paying.”
Since 2013, service station operators have been required to report fuel drive-offs to police online to eliminate the need for officers to attend every reported incident.
Fraud offences, including fuel theft, carry up to 10 years in jail.
FUEL THEFT OFFENCES IN BLACKTOWN LGA 2018 (REPORTED)
Extracted from Daily Telegraph