Crime is dropping in the greater Bendigo region, however many businesses suffer significant loss from crimes such as shoplifting and theft.
Petrol stations are among the businesses mostly likely to experience theft in the region, according to police Sergeant Robert Walsh.
He estimates at least one petrol theft is reported each day in the Bendigo area.
When a car drives away without paying for petrol it is only a police matter if the car is committing another offence, for instance, is stolen, is unregistered or has stolen plates.
In other situations, when people drive off without paying it is recorded as a ‘civil debt’. In this case, petrol stations can pursue the owner’s details through the court.
Damien Carew owns two APCO service stations in Bendigo.
Petrol theft costs him $120-$150 a week per station.
Mr Carew estimates he gets two drive offs per week per sites.
He reports each one to the police, but his business has still lost the money.
He’s past anger at this point, and is just frustrated.
While drive offs have always happened at petrol stations, over the years Mr Carew believes they have increased.
Every time a theft occurs, he or his staff have to go through security footage to submit a report.
“In the last probably five years I suppose, they've dramatically increased, as to the frequency and the dollar value,” he said.
Theft has remained relatively steady in the Greater Bendigo region over the past nine years according to the latest figures from the Crime Statistics Agency.
Theft from a retailer has also remained relatively steady over the years.
Shoplifting, however, is often hidden. Businesses can rarely identify the loss when it happens, often not noticing until stocktakes.
Small valuable items are among those most often taken, such as alcohol, cosmetics and meat.
The nature of shoplifting however, means many businesses do not report it when it occurs.
It may be days or weeks before they notice goods have been taken, too late to report it as a crime.
“A lot of the time it’s hard for them to know a lot of the time whether these people have shoplifted,” Sergeant Walsh said.
“If we catch one [shoplifter], there might be another 10 that got away.”
The manager of one entertainment store in Bendigo said that the business loses thousands of dollars each year to shoplifting.
Unless staff see someone in the act of taking stock, however, they normally don’t report it to the police.
“That’s mostly where most of our loss comes from,” she said.
“We can’t really pinpoint when it happens, but when we do our stock-takes it tells us a percentage, and stuff has been taken, often it’s quite a bit.”
Shoplifters vary in age, gender and demographic. They also do it for a wide range of reasons.
In some cases, groups work together to distract shop assistants before taking goods.
“You can’t say males are more inclined, or females or age groups. It’s a wide ranging, there’s no specific age or gender,” Sergeant Walsh said.
“Sometimes it people do it to pay for drugs, some people do it because they don’t want to pay, or it may be because they’ve spent their money elsewhere and they haven’t got money to put food on the table.”