FUEL is more likely to be stolen from regional properties by desperate thieves when it becomes expensive, the state’s rural crime investigators have heard.
Fuel theft has been a real problem across the North West in particular, where prices remain at all-time highs and hundreds of litres of fuel have flowed out of local properties as a result.
It represents about 18 per cent of all rural stealing offences in NSW, costing farmers thousands of dollars each year, and was a key point at the rural crime conference that finished up yesterday.
About 33 of the state’s specialist rural crime investigators met at Tocal, in the Hunter, over two days to discuss their respective region’s crime trends and share tips on reducing them.
While livestock and fuel theft were high on the agenda, investigators also covered trespassing and illegal hunting and produce, equipment and firearm theft.
They included several officers from the Oxley and Barwon Local Area Commands, where fuel and firearm thefts have reportedly been on the rise over the past year.
In March, Barwon investigators reported a spike in fuel theft at several Wee Waa and Narrabri properties when an estimated 300 to 400 litres of fuel was stolen.
Across the state, between 2008 and 2011, police recorded more than 700 incidents of fuel theft from rural industries.
Diesel was the most commonly stolen fuel over that period at a total of about 378,000 litres, which would have cost more than $578,000 at the bowser.
Western region commander, Assistant Commissioner Geoff McKechnie, convened the conference and offered suggestions behind the spate of fuel thefts.
Assistant Commissioner McKechnie said as fuel prices continued to rise, especially in regional areas, police expected the incidences of fuel theft to increase as well.
“As the fuel gets more expensive, stealing it becomes more attractive,” he said.
“For some people, stealing it becomes a necessity.”
The same had been said of livestock theft on the first day of the conference, when Assistant Commissioner McKechnie suggested instances were likely to rise as the livestock market became more buoyant.
The officers are combating the problem with an increased use of new technology and online presence on Facebook, where tech-savvy farmers can report crimes and supply police with information.
Senior police have previously reported rural crime as “under-reported” and investigators at the conference were taught how to engage with local communities online and build relationships.
So far, the New England and Barwon Rural Crime Units have launched “Project Eyewatch” pages on the social networking site and it is understood the Oxley unit has one on the way.