A CHANGE of policy means Victoria Police will investigate every petrol drive off in a bid to ease the burden on victims of crime.
Ballarat Superintendent Jenny Wilson was among the committee which has reversed a 2013 policy which said police did not have to investigate petrol drive-offs unless there was clear evidence of a criminal offence.
The policy originally required officers to only get involved if the vehicle in question was stolen, had fake numberplates or was owned by a known criminal, essentially meaning operators needed to prove a crime had been committed for it to be investigated.
Superintendent Wilson said this was not a law change, but a policy change aimed at protecting the victim from further stress.
“The previous policy had an obligation on the owner or operator to make their own inquiries to an offence, that responsibility puts it back onto the police,” Superintendent Wilson said.
“Primariliy it is our responsibility to support our local operators who are the victims.”
Superintendent Wilson said often a petrol drive off was as a result of a string of offences.
“It’s a linkage offence,” she said. “Often the theft is caught on CCTV. Often times there is a stolen vehicle involved, or stolen numberplates.
“It will help us identify people within the community who are committing other offences. The ultimate benefit will enable us to gather more information of potential offenders.”
Superintendent Wilson said police were also concerned about the amount of stolen vehicles which had valuables in them.
“Ballarat is becoming a satellite city, but there still is that small town mentality of ‘she’ll be right’,” she said.
“A lot of the thefts we are seeing, we are also noticing that people have left items such as credit cards in them. It’s incredibly important that people are security conscious.
“At the end of the day, a criminal looks to take advantage of another person, so we need to make it as difficult as possible for that to happen.”
The Australasian Association of Convenience Stores chief executive Jeff Rogut said the policy change was in line with community and industry expectation suggesting offences had spiralled.
“The change in petrol theft policy represents a step in the right direction and elevates Victoria to a leading position nationally in tackling this crime,” he said.