Petrol theft in New South Wales has reached a new 10-year high, as thousands of families struggle to cope with the cost-of-living crisis.
Last financial year, 11,673 motorists filled up their tanks and drove off without paying, according to the latest data from the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR).
In the same period, police charged close to 1,300 people with petrol theft.
Concerningly, these figures don’t take into account more recent months, where fuel prices have consistently sat above the $2-per-litre mark.
According to BOCSAR, the top three government areas for fuel theft were Blacktown, Canterbury-Bankstown and the Central Coast.
Parramatta and Penrith closely follow in fourth and fifth spot.
Waheed Ahmed, the owner of Metro Petroleum in St Marys, described the thieves as fearless.
“They have no fear, they just drive off,” he said.
Ahmed told the Weekender he has reported at least 10 petrol theft incidents in the last fortnight.
He also raised concerns that police aren’t doing enough to protect business owners, who are losing at least $45,000 each year.
“I went to the Police Station a few times wanting to speak to the area manager,” he said.
“They told us they were busy, that’s their excuse.”
Ahmed has taken matters into his own hands, banning repeat offenders from his petrol stations.
He said he keeps a close eye on the cameras and reports each incident as it happens, warning motorists that they will get caught.
“An officer came here and showed me how to file online complaints, so we do those, but we never get the money back,” he said.
“They [the police] say they’re not allowed to call the customer, but if they did it would help is a lot.”
Nepean PAC Crime Manger, Detective Inspector Adam Wilson told the Weekender that petrol theft has been an issue for as long as he can remember.
He said there was no excuse for stealing, even with the cost-of-living crisis.
“There has been ongoing consultation between the NSWPF and relevant industry groups to address the issue,” he said.
“Locally, the Nepean PAC investigates reports of petrol theft like all other stealings and where sufficient evidence exists we put the offenders before the courts.”
Formerly with the ABC, Makayla is a graduate of Western Sydney University. She covers a variety of news topics for the Weekender, including courts.