Time has run out for Victoria’s fuel thieves, with Victoria Police now getting tough on the crime that is costing Victorian fuel retailers more than $4.2 million per year.
The Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce (VACC) has won a significant victory, with Victoria Police now reaffirming that fuel theft is actually a crime – as opposed to a civil matter. This reverses a long-held policy position of not taking or acting on reports of theft that saw many service station proprietors nearly going to the wall.
The new Victoria Police policy to be rolled out means that:
• Victoria Police must take all reported instances of fuel theft and lodge incidents on their official database. From 2013 this has not been the case as fuel theft was regarded as a civil matter
• Industry is to continue providing evidence of fuel theft to Victoria Police, which must then determine whether or not a crime has been committed
• Victoria Police will not pursue thieves in order to demand payment but rather to arrest offenders if a crime has been established
• Victoria Police will continue to rely on industry evidence to connect fuel theft with other crimes.
“This is a significant win. Previously, the direction was that Victoria Police ‘may’ take a report, but they weren’t officially required to do so,” said VACC Chief Executive Officer, Geoff Gwilym.
This new ruling by Victoria Police comes after a long campaign that saw VACC members providing evidence through an industry data sharing tool supplied via the Auror Fuel Theft portal. This data clearly proved that recidivist offenders could be identified, and that crime can be prevented at the bowser without risk to console operators or the public.
In the midst of this good news, one part of the puzzle remains unresolved. Mr Gwilym questions why VicRoads was not more helpful to the process by providing stolen number plate data to industry.
“Industry believes that it has not been supported by VicRoads. In fact, some fuel retailers feel they have been hampered by them. We must have stolen number plate data now, not in six months. VACC yet again calls upon VicRoads to provide this data.”
In the interim, Victorian fuel retailers can be pleased with the outcome.
“VACC thanks Victoria Police and Minister for Police Lisa Neville for their work in bringing about this decision, which is good for all Victorians – except fuel thieves, that is.”