POLICE have this week called for mandatory pre-payment of petrol to fight an alarming jump in petrol drive-offs recently – but will it work?
And will it ever be introduced?
Sebastopol Ampol manager Vinay Kumar said his service station was the victim of several drive-offs every single week.
“We get about three or four every week – usually it’s just for $20 or $30, but sometimes you get the bigger ones,” he said.
“Most of the people come in to pay with a card, but they have no money on it – they just leave it here and drive off.”
Mr Kumar said a pre-pay petrol system “won’t work” and would drive customers away.
However, the owner of one of Ballarat’s smaller independent service stations said the crime wasn’t an issue for him.
Sunset Strip Service Centre owner Phillip Davis said he had never had a petrol drive-off in more than three decades – and customer service was the key.
“I’ve been in this game for 32 years and I’ve had my own garage for the last 20 years,” he said.
“If people know they’re going to get served, no one’s going to drive off on you.”
Mr Davis said if service stations still had universal driveway service, then the drive-off rate would be significantly reduced.
“You don’t want to drive off if you get good service,” he said.
“With a lot of these conglomerates, customer service has gone out the window.”
Ballarat police have launched a number plate theft prevention initiative aimed at reducing plate theft and, by extension, petrol drive-offs.
Operation SafePlate, run by Neighbourhood Watch volunteers, fits one-way security screws to number plates free of charge.
Since the operation started, more than 2000 vehicles in the Ballarat area have been fitted with the security screws.
The next Operation SafePlate will be held at the Bunnings underground car park on September 29 from 10am.