From North America and the UK to Australia and New Zealand, the causes and complexities of fuel retail crime are rapidly changing. More incidents are occurring and new people are involved.

Take fuel theft in New Zealand for example, where the total value of fuel drive-offs has increased by approximately 78% in 2022, according to data from the Auror platform looking at events during the same time period in 2021. And consider the surge in fuel theft (“bilking”) in the UK over the past year, hitting record levels by some indices.

As with all retail crime – especially Organized Retail Crime (ORC) – the realities for your team, customers, and business are serious. Factor in rising retail violence and the changing fuel theft landscape cements itself as an urgent topic to address together.

We’ll do exactly that in this post by exploring insights and observations around the world. From there, we’ll back into the solutions required for addressing these challenges.

How fuel theft is changing

Categories of crime vary by region depending on fuel retail environments and policy. For example, drive-offs are wildly important to solve for in ANZ and the UK, but these incidents aren’t an issue in the US due to pre-pay fuel standards. Other types of theft are still priorities though, especially for enterprise retailers who have onsite fuel operations.

People & products 

Our team has noted a significant increase in first-time people involved in fuel theft around the world. Where ORC theft accounts for the majority of retail loss, this finding signals a new challenge that can only be faced with an intelligent network.

In New Zealand, there has been a 24% increase in people stealing fuel for the first time in 2022, compared to the same time period in 2021. As we’ll revisit, rising costs around the world have an impact on the nature of fuel. Looking at data from the Auror platform, for example, we see eye-catching increases from 2021 to 2022 in New Zealand. The actual market cost increase for 91 petrol and 95 petrol is 37% per liter of fuel, and the total product loss values have increased by 57% and 120% respectively. Diesel is especially concerning, with a 98% market cost increase per liter against an approximate 110% increase in reported product loss.

These reactive pressures – new people, more people, and specific products – carry implications for fuel retail leaders globally. Let’s zoom in on why this is happening, its impact, and what can be done.

Price increases around the world

One major issue impacting retailers around the world is inflation. Prices are higher across the board for most countries and these pressures lead to increased crime and fuel theft. People who wouldn’t normally steal fuel are doing so because of the high cost. In conversations around the industry, we’re even hearing some of these new people committing fuel theft are business owners struggling to stay afloat in a challenging economy.

Two regions where we’re partnering with retail leaders are North America and the UK – major world economies and retail communities. Both are experiencing historic inflation rates and both are increasingly focused on making their fuel retail environments safer. In the US specifically, economic reports consistently show an 8.5% inflation rate. And not far off, most reports indicate a 10.1% rate in the UK at the present time.

Fuel retail staffing, training, health & safety

Adding to an inflationary impact, fuel retailers are also working with fewer team members. The cause of this employee shortage varies from country to country, but it’s a pattern in retail and makes addressing fuel crime much more difficult. This instability began in the early days of the pandemic and has remained an issue for many fuel retailers.

When staffing is low, not only does it make general operations difficult to maintain, but it also impacts training. Without the time or people on staff to ensure every team member understands how to prevent and manage fuel theft or other kinds of retail crime, the events will increase.

And rising aggression and violence toward retail workers makes this a critical problem to solve.

Collaborating with law enforcement

Like many factors impacting fuel retail crime, the effectiveness of law enforcement partnerships varies around the world. Collaboration between fuel retailers and law enforcement agencies has improved, but as we’ve mentioned before, some countries' reform-minded legislation has unintentionally made it more difficult for leaders to partner on addressing theft. Specifically in the US, some attorneys have stated they won’t prosecute people for nonviolent crimes and misdemeanors as they think it’s not in the best interest of public safety to charge these crimes.

This impacts fuel retailers that are struggling to prevent crime without sufficient penalties in place. It also discourages fuel retail teams from reporting events because they may feel it’s a waste of time and no resolution will be found either way.

What can you do about it?

Addressing fuel theft in today’s world is dependent on clear and fast intelligence sharing. But this is no easy task – fuel retailers need a connected ecosystem of solutions so they can solve these new challenges across their network, rather than in one-off scenarios. And they need intuitive, automated ways to collaborate with each other and local law enforcement.

That’s where Auror’s Retail Crime Intelligence platform comes into play.

Where legacy case management falls short with fuel retail crime, Retail Crime Intelligence levels up through shared intelligence and aggregate insights – so you can quickly connect the dots and close cases.

One fuel retail leader experienced just that after joining the Auror movement. Z Energy for example, New Zealand’s largest retail fuel provider, drove a 73% decrease in net loss through a combination of fewer drive-offs and a higher recovery rate. Notably, they also reported a 54% reduction in repeat offenders after implementing Auror ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition). 

As you can see, the intersection of Retail Crime Intelligence and ANPR is a powerful one when it comes to keeping your forecourts safe from ORC theft.

In the US though, there have been privacy concerns around the use of certain technologies such as ANPR and ANPR cameras – or ALPR (Automatic License Plate Recognition). The good news is that you can address this changing fuel crime landscape in a safe and compliant way. In fact, there are only 17 states with legislation expressly addressing the use of ALPR and most of these focus on restricting law enforcement usage.

Top benefits of Auror ANPR for fuel retailers include:

  1. Customer & team experience:  Easily pay for outstanding fuel in-person or online which makes for a smoother experience when accidental non-payments occur. Reduce high-conflict conversations with customers and get accurate alerts your team can trust.
  1. Drive-off prevention & debt recovery: Reduce repeat drive-offs by up to 70% at ANPR sites and leverage group-wide data to protect your entire organization. Easily collect payment for accidental drive-offs and unable-to-pay events.
  1. Productivity & collaboration: Report events quickly and easily, saving hours per week for each site. Plus, automate workflows for drive-offs and payments to reduce team workload. Share information with police, and aggregate intel across people and vehicles to assist investigations.

Fuel retail crime is changing around the world, but the Auror movement is facing it head-on. From economic pressures and staffing concerns to rising violence and collaboration with police, Retail Crime Intelligence is the key to preparing for and thriving in the future.

If you’re keen to learn more and join us, reach out anytime.

September 18, 2022

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