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Service station which lost up to $20k from fuel drive-offs last financial year, calls for urgent action

Jessica MoroneyGeraldton Guardian
Metro Petroleum Geraldton business owner says he is having to deal with daily fuel thefts.
Camera IconMetro Petroleum Geraldton business owner says he is having to deal with daily fuel thefts. Credit: Jessica Moroney/Geraldton Guardian

A local service station owner struggling to make ends meet after constant fuel drive-offs has called for urgent action to catch the culprits, saying the thefts were a daily blight on his business.

Metro Petroleum Geraldton has resorted to posting CCTV footage and photos of fuel drive-off offenders on social media in a bid to name and shame them.

Owner Vikas Mehla, who is based in Perth, said fuel drive-offs at the Geraldton outlet on Brand Highway, which opened about two years ago, were increasing every day, and more action should be taken to track down repeat offenders.

On Thursday, just before the Guardian spoke to staff, there had already been a fuel drive-off around 8am.

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Mr Mehla said he had reported more than 50 incidents of fuel drive-offs to local police, but had begun to lose hope.

“They need to target these people — at the moment the only reason they keep stealing the fuel is because they know police aren’t doing their job,” he said.

Mr Mehla said in the past financial year, $15,000-$20,000 worth of fuel was stolen — similar to the profit the business made in fuel a year.

“Metro is the company that supply the fuel, we’re the small retailers who are trying to run our business to support our family,” he said.

“All I want to say is all these things will cost us, and the operating costs will need to be passed on to other people. We are trying our best to supply the best quality fuel at a good price.”

Geraldton Police say they have offered the business crime prevention advice such as pre-paid facilities and other target hardening initiatives.

But Mr Mehla said it wasn’t practical for the fuel station to use pre-pay as the business would lose money from the service.

“We will lose a lot of sales, because the customer will pre-pay and won’t buy anything in the shop,” he said.

“When it’s pre-pay, they pick a rough price and they could have fuelled up more than the chosen amount.”

Geraldton Police acting Inspector Chris Martin said police had investigated a number of reports of fuel theft and investigations were at several stages of inquiry.

He said police understood fuel drive-offs were frustrating for business owners and urged service stations to report the incidents immediately.

“We see that the theft of fuel is an ongoing pressure, and it comes from all areas of Geraldton,” he said.

“On instances where we believe criminality exists, and where we have concerns for the conduct of the people involved in the incident, our officers will respond quickly.

“Some of the elements (not all) which may suggest criminality are if the vehicle is stolen, has false or altered registration plates, or if there is a history of similar offences.”

To report a crime to local police contact 13 14 44.

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