A senior police officer said fuel thefts jumped 24% between January and April compared to the same period last year. Photo / Mead Norton
The rising cost of living is pushing more and more people to drive off without paying for fuel as people “struggle to swipe that card”, a Rotorua petrol station manager said.
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According to a police officer, fuel thefts jumped 24% between January and April compared to the same period last year.
Mobil Rotorua Territory Manager Josh Greaves said they have had an increasing number of fuel thefts in recent months.
“We’ve had a number of car starts, more than usual over the past few months. It’s been slipping up there.”
Greaves said the high cost of living made it harder for many people in Rotorua.
“Yes, the cost of fuel is quite high, next to everything else.
“I think the rising cost of living and the rise in gas theft are linked, especially when you see the price even for someone who is really willing to pay the price.
“It’s a lot of money and it’s hard to swipe that card.”
Greaves said his staff struggled after seeing someone leave without paying for their fuel.
“Staff take it personally, often it’s shifts only. They’re on their own.
“The staff take it to heart. They know it’s money coming out of our pocket.
“You turn on the pump and assume they’re going to be decent about it, decent people and off they go.
“I understand times are tough for everyone right now… The solution is not to go and rob someone else.
“We give [people] the benefit of the doubt by opening the pump and [they’re] taking advantage of us.”
Malfroy Rd’s Challenge Rotorua manager Surjit Singh said his petrol station had also been targeted by fuel thieves.
One person had left without paying for fuel twice in a week, he said.
Singh said three or four people were in the car, which drove off without paying after refueling.
What he believed to be the same vehicle visited the store four days later, and the person was seen filling up and driving off.
“The police never came after we made our reports. They told us they were too busy, too busy.
“I was told that in Rotorua there are 15 to 20 gas changes a day.”
Rotorua Police Zone Commander Phil Taikato said the vehicle and the person responsible were still wanted in connection with the reported offenses at Challenge Rotorua.
Taikato said a large number of thefts could have been avoided through the use of prepaid systems at gas stations.
“I would say the onus is on the gas stations, really.”
He said fuel thefts increased by 24% between January and April compared to the same period last year.
“Thieves take what they can, when they can.”
Although Taikato said there may be a link between fuel thefts and the rising cost of living, he said this type of crime has always existed.
“Some just feel entitled to it, the oil hubs existed before the current crisis.
“Those who commit to a gas station will make sure they have a full tank, which is worth it for them.”
Pakanui Tuhura, director of the Rotorua Budget Advisory Service, said he did not condone turning to crime when things got financially stressful.
“The vast majority of people have options and choices long before crime becomes an option.
“If they are under financial pressure and unable to pay something, some people will take advantage of this to steal if they think they can get away with it.”
Tuhura said there are many reasons why people steal.
“They could steal gasoline to fill up a stolen car.”
He said a former customer needed fuel to get to work and intended to pay after being paid from work, but the gas station had a “no ticket” policy.
“However, they were paid but were then too whakamā to go back, confess and pay.”
Tuhura said that as the cost of living continued to climb, he encouraged the community to “increase their income through legitimate means”.
“It is interesting that we have such a low unemployment rate at the moment, but when the vacancies are published there are still long queues of applicants.
“It tells me that a lot of applicants are already employed or looking to improve their pay rate, work/life balance or seek additional work.
“The other option is to look to live within your means by making sure your needs are covered and to look for other ways to maintain your lifestyle that have a lower monetary cost, for example, walking or cycling to Coming to work not only saves money, but gives you the exercise you need to stay healthy.”
A police media spokesman said police were committed to holding people who were stealing to account.
“We encourage members of the public to be alert to suspicious behavior and to report it immediately to the police by calling 111.”
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