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High fuel prices behind increase in forecourt ‘drive offs’

GARDAÍ have once again warned that the sharp rise in the price of petrol and diesel may be one of the main reasons behind an increase in the number of so- called ‘drive offs’ from service stations in North Cork.

number of weeks ago Fermoy-based crime prevention officer Sgt John Kelly said there had been a marked increase in the number of reported incidents of people filling up their tanks and driving away without paying for their fuel.

At the time he cited one particular incident in Mallow where the driver of a car bearing false number plates filled up their tank, jumped back into the vehicle and sped off the forecourt.

He cited other incidents where people filled up their vehicles, went into the station to purchase other goods such as coffee or cigarettes and left without paying for the fuel.

Sgt Kelly said the within the past week one isolated service station in the North Cork area was hit by ‘drive-offs’ twice within the space of two hours.

“One of the cars filled up with €100 worth of fuel and the second car with €95 worth of duel. That’s is a big hit for a small operator to take, particularly when you consider there is not much of a profit margin on fuel,” said Sgt Kelly.

He said that while installing CCTV cameras might catch some opportunist thieves in the act, others are more practised in the art of deception and cover their faces with masks or peaked baseball-style caps.

“As we saw from the incident in Mallow they also use false number plates, making it very difficult to trace the vehicle,” said Sgt Kelly.

He suggested that one obvious way to tackle the problem would be for service stations to installed ‘pay before you fill system’.

“It is a concept used in other countries, whereby you pay up front for a specified amount of fuel. We see an increasing number of these systems in place in our towns and villages, so it is something that many people are already familiar with,” said Sgt Kelly.

“Where this may not be feasible, staff need to be vigilant and trained to be aware of any suspicious behaviour that may indicate someone is going to drive off without paying for their fuel. Of course there are incidents where people genuinely forget to pay and normally they return to rectify their mistake,” he added.

Sgt Kelly said there is also a direct correlation between the high price of oil and thefts from domestic home heating tanks and industrial storage tanks.

“Its not something that people might ordinarily think off during the summer months when the weather is good and as a result thefts from tanks can go unnoticed for weeks or even months,” said Sgt Kelly.

He said thieves can also take a more subtle approach by siphoning off oil without actually emptying the tank.

“Schools, community halls, building sites and farms in rural areas are also prime targets for oil thieves,” said Sgt Kelly.

“Our advice to businesses and homeowners would be to ensure that storage tanks are well secured at all times and, if possible, situated well out of sight,” said Sgt Kelly.

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