ALMOST 100 people may have failed to pay for fuel at petrol bowsers across the Orana Mid-Western Police District so far this financial year, but just 11 per cent of them have been charged.
Petrol theft is considered fraud under the NSW Crimes Act 1900, with a NSW Police spokeswoman saying officers are committed to tackling the crime.
So far during 2019/20, 92 people had failed to pay for their fuel at petrol bowsers in the Orana Mid-Western region with 11 of them charged.
By comparison, in 2018/19, there were 160 fail to pay for fuel incidents reported with 24 people charged.
Orana Mid-Western acting crime manager Detective Sergeant Joshua Holgate said it was not always immediately obvious to officers if the driver had made an honest mistake.
"Police will investigate the circumstances of the incident much like they would with any other matter that is reported," he said.
If convicted there are a number of sentencing options open to the court, however the maximum penalty is 10 years jail.Orana Mid-Western acting crime manager Detective Sergeant Joshua Holgate
"There are cases where the police will approach a motorist who has made a genuine mistake and not paid for their fuel.
"In those instances the person is almost always very keen to return to the service station and rectify the situation.
"When it is clear that a motorist has made a mistake and had no intention to deceive the service station, obviously there is no need for the police to be further involved."
Detective Sergeant Holgate said when police determine an offence has occurred officers will issue a person with a court attendance notice.
"This means that the person will have to attend court and front a magistrate," he said.
"If convicted there are a number of sentencing options open to the court, however the maximum penalty is 10 years jail."
Detective Sergeant Holgate said there appeared to be no trends for fuel theft and the drought had not impacted the number of occurrences.
A NSW Police spokeswoman said police are committed to tackling 'fail to pay' (FTP) crime and urged the industry to assist.
"We need the help of industry to ensure we can catch and charge those who rob services stations of fuel," she said.
"It is critical that any service station targeted by fuel thieves fill out the FTP form and submit it to police."
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