As part of the Preventing Stealing from Vehicles in NSW Action Plan, DOC was approached by the NSW Department of Attorney General and Justice to develop a design assessment and recommendation for a service station that would effectively reduce petrol drive-off offences. Police intelligence has shown links between petrol drive-offs (theft of petrol by filling up and failing to pay) and numberplate theft, which has links to other crime types.


An initial literature review and survey of best practice and police data showed us that a) this problem was not isolated to NSW, and b) that things could be done to help solve the problem, such as improved reporting to police. However, our research indicated that the main factor confounding problem-solving attempts was an unacknowledged conflict of priorities between the core stakeholders.

Service stations are more than a petrol pump and a checkout: the business model of service stations depends heavily on revenue from retail sales, while the sale of petrol accounts for a relatively minor component of overall revenue. As we saw in the department store project, retail businesses typically allocate more resources to increasing sales than they do loss prevention. This is naturally not the case for Police or government agencies dealing with crime. Furthermore, our research uncovered additional, competing priorities in the service station industry, such as issues of staff safety, that service station businesses are tackling alongside problems with drive-off offences. As such, Police and government’s concern with drive-offs were of lesser concern to service station owners, in spite of the fact that service stations would appear to be the primary victims of this crime. Unravelling this misalignment helped us come up with designs that would satisfy competing stakeholder priorities.


As part of our research, we sought to clarify uncertainty about the circumstances of drive off offences; data indicates that some drive-offs are inadvertent while others are part of a more elaborate crime spree. We then visited service stations identified by Police data as regular targets of petrol theft and observed the site layout and customer demographic to build hypotheses of the level of risk for opportunistic crime at each site. Co-design is a core component of  DOC’s design methodology; both the research and design phases of our projects rely equally on the expertise of stakeholders and our own staff. The first workshop we held was a Design Assessment Workshop where representatives of NSW Police Policy & Programs unit, Department of Attorney General & Justice and UTS academic staff worked together to identify areas of crime risk and opportunity at the service stations. In the next workshop, concepts generated by our designers were shown to participants from the workshop and participants were invited and encouraged to contribute to or modify concepts. A suite of hypothetical solutions were incorporated into a report which was given to stakeholders at the end of the process.


Some of the design concepts included putting the ‘service’ back into service stations, with a ‘concierge’ or valet to help direct traffic; electronic signage and changes to physical layout and amenity that would improve safety, reduce waiting times, inform customers about waiting times and reduce customer frustration; pre-pay or pay-at-the-pump options to eliminate inadvertent drive-offs or ‘crimes of frustration’; a loyalty card system that would speed up filling times and reduce anonymity, and others.