Petrol theft spirals

SPIRALLING petrol prices on the Coffs Coast appear to be too much to bear for some.

With unleaded fuel hovering around the $1.54 mark locally, the temptation is there for people to either flee a service station without paying, or to siphon fuel from parked vehicles.

In some of the latest incidents in our region, intruders siphoned 30 litres of unleaded petrol from a Holden station wagon in Parkes Street, Nambucca Heads, some time between Sunday and Tuesday.

Also at Nambucca Heads, thieves stole close to a full tank of petrol from a car parked in Meadow Crescent overnight on Tuesday.

Ray Rowe, who owns the Caltex service stations at Coffs Harbour, Macksville and Port Macquarie, says petrol theft is on the rise.

"And the value is obviously increasing," Mr Rowe said.

"Its getting worse and what people are doing is no accident. When you see the way they do it and what they do, its quite deliberate.

"If the police catch them, I tell them I want them charged with theft. It gives them a criminal record.

"We have been successful at our petrol stations."

Mr Rowe said he wasnt sure why this type of theft had jumped.

"It could be anything economic. I don't know. You don't get an opportunity to ask these people," he said.

"I guess it could be the higher petrol prices, and when I talk to the local police, thats what theyre indicating."

He hoped the State Government would follow through on its threat to make service stations have petrol pre-payment, but he warned consumers would be inconvenienced by having to first pay for their fuel before filling up.

The manager of Coffs Harbour's Bailey Centre Mobil Service Station, Paul Amos, said he had not seen an increase in drive-offs lately.

"It's a thing that happens. It comes and goes," Mr Amos said.

"We get one or two characters that do that, and we have heavy periods of drive-offs, but theyre either caught or move on and it seems to stop, until the next time.

"However, most people do the right thing. If they come in with only $50 in their pocket, they only put in $50 worth of petrol. You might want $70 worth, but you settle for your $50.

"Also, we have a lot of cameras at our service station, and word has got around that we do have a good surveillance system."

Coffs/Clarence police said they had not noticed a marked increase in petrol siphoning or theft from petrol stations.
Motorists can, according to police, prevent petrol being taken from their cars by locking them and putting them in a garage or a well-lit area.


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