ROBERT Cook knows first-hand how much fuel station theft can put small businesses under the pump.
The South Grafton Liberty fuel station owner has people drive away without paying for fuel a couple of times each month.
"We work on a profit margin of 5% or less, so if someone drives off with $100 you'd need to sell nearly $2000 of fuel to make up for the loss," he said.
"It's hard for a small business to cop that, especially if it happens a couple times a month, and it can be rather disheartening for staff as well because they think they've been responsible for a loss."
Mr Cook said while highway fuel stops often copped the brunt of the thefts, the prospect of drive-offs was a problem for most businesses. Of 515 counts of fraud in the Coffs/Clarence command during the last financial year, 148 came from a "failure to pay" at service stations.
More than half those drive-offs were reported in the Clarence Valley, with 32% in Grafton and 26% in Woolgoolga.
Maclean made up one per cent of the total.
To deter thefts, Mr Cook has had CCTV cameras installed, but draws the line at 'pay before you pump' bowsers.
"They're inconvenient for the customer, but can be important in places where there's a criminal element at certain times of night," he said.
"I think if you have cameras and are able to identify number plates, you've justgot to rely on police to follow that up."
Coffs/Clarence crime manager Detective Inspector Darren Jameson said police had already undertaken a number of security audits at high risk service stations across the command.
They would continue to work to help business owners ramp up security via CCTV cameras and number plate recognition strategies.
148 counts of fail to pay
112 pay pass offences
70 scam offences via phone, email and post
21 incidents of employee fraud
- one incident identity fraud/impersonation
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