$500 fines  urged for  petrol  drive-offs
Costly business: Petrol drive-offs are hurting businesses. Picture: Supplied

Fuel thieves should be hit with $500 on-the-spot fines and the loss of demerit points to help stamp out what retailers describe as Perth's drive-off epidemic.

Australian Association of Convenience Stores chief executive Jeff Rogut said some WA service station operators were losing between $200,000 and $400,000 a year from drive-offs but penalties did not reflect the scale of the problem. "A $500 fine will certainly make people think twice about doing it," he said.

Issuing fines instead of laying stealing charges would also remove the need for police to prove intent when customers claimed they had simply forgotten to pay.

Mr Rogut said the industry recently met Police Minister Liza Harvey to discuss a range of solutions, including licence cancellations for repeat offenders.

Two men have been charged with stealing more than $11,000 of fuel from a Maddington petrol station. The charges resulted from a raid on an Orange Grove property on Friday, when an electric generator, a trailer, diesel fuel, drugs and drug paraphernalia were seized by police.

A police spokesman said it would be alleged the men stole more than 7000 litres of fuel.

Acting Police Minister John Day yesterday said discussions with the industry and police were on-going regarding the best way to tackle the problem.

The West Australian revealed on Saturday that police had launched an operation targeting fuel theft - putting extra cars into known drive off hotspots in a bid to catch thieves in the act.
But police also called on retailers to do more to protect themselves; including introducing pre-payment technology at all bowsers which they believed could end the problem overnight.

Mr Rogut said pre-payment was expensive to install and unpopular with customers.

It also reduced revenue from impulse purchases on things like food and drink because customers no longer had to enter stores to pay.

“Pre-paid petrol is inconvenient for customers and… stores might miss out on impulse sales which are so important to their businesses given fuel is a very low margin product,” Mr Rogut said.

The West Australian

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