UPDATE: The RACQ has called for a greater emphasis on drive-off offences to send a strong message to the community but Bundaberg Police Sergeant Michael Prickett said the higher figures could be explained by the way all drive-offs were now reported, not a great increase criminal offences.
Sgt Prickett said the growing use of the 131 444 Policelink number, which was introduced in 2010, changed the way drive-offs were reported and meant mistakes were recorded as crimes.
"The vast majority of instances are more often than not, simply mistakes," he said.
"Petrol stations used to call their local station and we would contact the drivers and they'd simply forgotten so they would go back and pay for it, with no criminal report.
"Now they report it to Policelink, which means every instance is recorded."
Sgt Prickett said the majority of cases occurred when people approached to cashier with food or drinks and assumed the operator was aware they needed to pay for petrol as well.
"Usually people are paying with eftpos and they don't realise if the fuel hasn't been rung up," he said.
He said there had been no great spike in the number of genuine, deliberate drive-offs.
EARLIER: Shocking figures released by RACQ have revealed the number of reported petrol run-offs in Queensland has more than tripled over the last five years.
Statistics provided by Queensland Police showed more than 14,600 reported run-offs in 2013/14, up from just 4469 in 2009/10.
RACQ executive manager for public policy Michael Roth said figures showed the south eastern region, which included the Gold Coast and Logan, had the highest number of offences over the last five years.
"Almost 5000 offences were reported in the south east this year alone, with the rate of offences on the Gold Coast and Logan increasing."
Mr Roth said RACQ believed the rate of run-offs was directly linked to vehicle and number plate thefts.
"Despite CCTV security measures, brazen thieves were going to great lengths to steal fuel," he said.
"We want to see the police place a greater emphasis on this type of offending. This is a serious crime that is clearly not going away.
"We need to see a strong message to the community that this type of offending won't be tolerated and if people commit these offences they will get caught."