Incidences of filling station drive-offs has increased in the county.

Filling station drive-offs fuelling concern

A huge spike in filling station 'drive-offs' in county Cork has been described as “concerning” by gardaí.

Since January there have been 130 instances of people not paying for petrol in the Cork North Garda division.

At a Cork county joint policing committee (JPC) meeting last Monday week, new figures showed there were 262 reported crimes in the category Theft of other property so far in 2023.

Chief Supt Vincent O'Sullivan of the Cork North and West Garda Divisions confirmed that 130 of these were filling station drive-offs.

He said he was not overly concerned by a sharp increase in theft from shops as many had been closed this time last year due to the pandemic. However, he said theft of other property was a “different story”.

Drive-offs are a “big driver for crime in Cork North at the moment”, said Chief Supt O'Sullivan.

A similar but less extreme trend was seen in Cork West with 18% of Theft of other property offences recorder as filling station drive-offs.

Chief Supt O'Sullivan suggested that the rising prices of petrol may be a contributing factor to the trend.

A jump in petrol and diesel prices in Ireland brought in at the start of this month has made it approximately €3.85 more expensive to fill an average petrol car and €2.75 more expensive to fill a diesel car.

According to the Irish Petrol Retailers Association (IPRA), the drive-off phenomenon seen across the country is a result of this price increase.

David Blevings, spokesperson for the IPRA said feedback from the association’s members suggests an average loss of approximately €2,500 a year per filling station.

In response, the IPRA and An Garda Síochána have launched a pilot programme to tackle the issue in the Dublin region. If successful, it could be deployed across the country.

Mr Blevings said: “While the garda initiative is welcome, it focuses on detection and prevention. What we really need is third party access to the driver database to chase and deter perpetrators.

“As part of our lobbying initiative to reduce the loss to retailers, we will be asking TDs to support our request to the Minister (for Justice) to permit access to the database to try and address this huge problem,” he added.