High petrol prices have led to a spike in drive-offs in Albury-Wodonga, according to police.

Wodonga APCO service station owner Paul Armstrong said in recent weeks he has had four times more petrol thefts than he typically would.

“Where someone gets in their car and drives off, really concealing their face, we were getting probably one every four weeks. I’ve probably had one a week over the last five weeks,” he said.

Across the border, Jo Stratton said the number of drive-offs at the service station she owns in Albury had doubled and it was costing the business.

Jo Stratton says despite the high prices, her service station across the border in Albury has been busier than ever.(ABC Goulburn Murray: Mikaela Ortolan)

“We’re probably seeing two a week and they can vary from a jerry can at $10 to $150 worth of fuel,” she said.

“If the crims want to do it they’ll do it but sometimes people just can’t afford it and so it’s an act of desperation.”

Farms also targeted

Murray River Police District’s Detective Chief Inspector Mick Stoltenberg said the upward trend could be linked to an increase in car thefts around the area and the high price of petrol.

“In particular now, you’ve almost got to give an arm and a leg to fill your car up,” he said.

“Whether [drive-offs are] directly linked to the low-lifes that are going out and stealing cars or people just being desperate, regardless, it’s a fraud-related offence.”

Victoria Police Farm Crime Coordinator Unit Inspector Karl Curran said fuel theft was also an issue for the farming community but there has been a lack of reporting when incidents occur.

He said the latest crime data revealed a 20 per cent jump in diesel theft.

“Don’t leave your trucks [and machinery] around where your fuel can be siphoned because with fuel prices where they are at the moment it’s a very expensive commodity and opportunistic thieves and others will target farms where they know fuel potentially is.

“Be vigilant in relation to locking up your bowsers, your hoses, checking your tanks regularly, putting locks on them where you can,” he said.

Prices to drop

Mr Armstrong was bracing for the impacts if the price of fuel continued on to rise

“They’re unprecedented high prices. They’ve never been this high in Australia since I’ve been in the fuel game,” he said.

“If we had of hit $2.50 a litre I was expecting one or two [drive-offs] every day.”

He said competitive prices were helping combat the issue.

“We’re always trying to keep a really good price on our board for our customers.

“My sales have been extraordinary over the last six to eight weeks and I think that actually holds a lot of people up from wanting to steal,” he said.

Wodonga service station owner Paul Armstrong says he has never seen prices so high.(ABC Goulburn Murray: Mikaela Ortolan)

Ms Stratton said her staff were trained and equipped with the skills to deal with theft.

“If someone looks suspicious … if someone’s pumping petrol with a hoodie, ask them to take it off,” she said.

“We’re not meant to be wearing masks now so if the driver of a car is wearing a mask and sitting in the car while [someone else is] pumping fuel, that’s a warning signal for a quicker getaway.”

CCTV cameras are also around the area, with number plate recognition and facial feature detection capabilities.

He said despite the increase in thefts, there was some good news in sight.

“Fuel now is thankfully on its way back down.

“We’ve come off 4 cents a litre and if it keeps dropping backwards it will maybe be under $2 by Easter.”

Extracted in full from: High petrol prices leads to increase in drive-offs in Albury and Wodonga – ABC News