PETROL station “drive-offs” have become an increasing problem for service station operators in the Ballarat region.
A representative of United Petroleum, which has three service stations in Ballarat, said the issue needed to be combated.
“Anecdotally, ‘drive-offs’ are an increasing regular issue for us across Victoria; the Ballarat region included,” United Petroleum spokesperson Andrew Luxton said.
“We’d support any initiative to bring more light to this growing problem.”
According to the Australian Association of Convenience Stores, petrol theft in Victoria is costing more than $10 million every year.
However, Sun-bar service station owner Phil Davis said he could not recall one “drive-off” in 35 years.
He said traditional service had paid off and deterred any wrong-doers over the years.
“We don’t have drive-offs because we are still old school, we still give old-fashioned service. I’ve never had a drive-off in 35 years,” Mr Davis said.
Victoria Police policy changes in July 2013 stated petrol drive-offs would not be investigated unless there was sufficient information to indicate criminality.
Unless criminality can be proven, operators must cover costs and follow a civil process.
Ballarat police proactive unit’s Senior Constable Janine Walker said stolen number plates were typically used by criminals in the theft of petrol.
“In some areas of Victoria, vehicles displaying false or stolen plates commit over half of petrol thefts,” Senior Constable Walker said.
“When an offender steals your number plates, they are effectively stealing your identity.”
Operation Safe Plate Day will be held at Bunnings Warehouse next month where motorists can have one-way security screws fastened to their vehicles.