Queensland police have launched a one-month SMS and email trial targeting vehicles involved in suspected fuel drive-offs.
The message will prompt owners of the vehicles involved to return to the service station to pay for the fuel, reducing the need for police intervention.
Police said the messages would contain the registration number of the vehicle involved, the date and time of the incident, and would clearly identify the Queensland Police Service (QPS) as the sender of the SMS.
The message also gives owners of cars involved in fuel drive-offs the benefit of the doubt by asking them to return to the petrol station to resolve the matter.
Acting Superintendent Sharee Cumming said people leaving service stations and failing to pay for fuel was a significant concern for police.
“Driving off without paying for fuel is a criminal offence,” she said.
“This can happen for various reasons, including being distracted at the pump and then forgetting to pay before driving away.
“The trial is designed to encourage people involved in a fuel drive-off, either inadvertently or on purpose, to pay for their fuel, which will reduce the need of our frontline officers to commence investigations.”
Acting Superintendent Cumming said there was approximately 27,800 reported offences of this type in the 2018-2019 financial year.
“Approximately 40 per cent of those offences are withdrawn each year once police are involved [and] 23 per cent of those reported offences are later solved by police through taking subsequent enforcement action,” Superintendent Cumming said.
She said based on those figures it was predicted that about 30,000 such incident might occur in the current financial year.
“[Drivers need to] just pay attention to what’s happening — so for those people who are being distracted, whether it be by other people who are in the car, or what’s going on at the service station itself, or they may have their earbuds in — there are a variety of reasons why people forget to go inside and pay,” she said.
Police also said the messages would never ask recipients to provide bank account details, PayPal particulars, personal financial details or ask to make direct payments.
If car owners were not driving the vehicle at the time but knew who was, police advised they contact that person and ask them to finalise payment immediately to avoid a fine and potential prosecution.