Petrol drive offs are costing service stations an average of $7200 every year and the problem is especially bad in Melbourne’s southeast.

Figures from the Crime Statistics Agency revealed record rates of crime at service stations with more than 200 thefts every month — one every four hours — in Casey, Frankston, Greater Dandenong, Kingston, Knox and Monash.

Most of those thefts relate to petrol drive offs.

Statistics show that the rate of theft has more than doubled in Greater Dandenong (up 149 per cent), Kingston (103 per cent) and Monash (177 per cent) and more than tripled in Knox (217 per cent) since 2015.

The number of thefts rose by 87 per cent in Frankston and 65 per cent in Casey during the same period.

Australasian Convenience and Petroleum Marketers Association chief executive, Mark McKenzie said average losses in Victoria from fuel drive offs (accidental and intentional theft) were estimated to be an average of $7200 per year, with some sites significantly higher. “The loss rates in Victoria are second only to those in Western Australia which average 25 per cent higher,” Mr McKenzie said.

He said recent changes to police reporting of fuel theft “did not appear to have had any marked impact on theft rates in Victoria”.

In October, 2018 Victoria Police changed its policy on reporting and investigating petrol drive-offs.

As a result police are now responsible for making initial inquiries to determine if a criminal offence has occurred.

Previously service station owners were expected to help prove dishonesty by providing CCTV footage or witness statements.

Victoria Police Senior Communications Adviser Amelia Penhall said the increase in the number of fuel thefts recorded “was something we expected to see”.

Ms Penhall said a number of initiatives had been rolled out across Victoria to combat the problem including introducing Fuel Liaison Officers in each division.

“The Fuel Liaison Officers help to identify areas of improvement for the service stations regarding crime reporting, site security, CCTV and recommend other means of crime prevention,” she said.

She said police had also increased their presence across service stations in the southern metro region through the Night Series vehicle crime operations.

“This has resulted in a number of petrol theft arrests and clearance of stolen vehicles and stolen or cloned registration plates,” she said.

“The investigation of petrol drive offs can assist in identifying recidivist offenders for this and other crime categories, and provide intelligence on and links to serious and organised crime.”

Extracted from Daily Telegraph