Police departments across North America are warning drivers to protect themselves against an increase in gas theft as oil prices continue to rise. Russian sanctions, pandemic-related supply chain issues, and rampant inflation have all contributed to the spike in fuel prices in the last few weeks.
At a glance
- Rising gas prices are leading to big spikes in gas theft across the country
- Siphoning, punctured tanks, and cut fuel lines are all ways for thieves to access your car’s gasoline
- Gas prices in the U.S. just broke a 2008 record for national average
Therefore, as the value of a tank of gas rises, so, too, does the need to protect it.
In Washington State, the Hoquiam police department recently suggested drivers buy a locking gas cap and park in well-lit areas.
“We often discover these thefts later when the owner goes to the gas station to fill up and finds all the fuel dumping out under the vehicle from the cut filler line,” Hoquiam Chief of Police Jeff Myers said.
Another Washington-based department suggested drivers avoid parking in public places for “extended periods” of time; and position vehicles so that the fuel door can be seen from a main road.
“We understand a motivated thief may not be deterred from stealing, no matter how hard we try to protect our items of value,” the Renton police department said via social media. “But the goal is to introduce deterrents that will make them uncomfortable; or present inconveniences that will encourage them to leave the area.”
The Atlanta Police Department said they recently arrested a man who was puncturing gas tanks and stealing gasoline straight out of cars.
“During these crimes, the suspect involved appeared to have used a tool to drill a hole into the gas tanks of the victims’ vehicles resulting in hundreds or thousands of dollars of extra costs to the victim for gas tank repairs,” the Atlanta department said in a press release.
Small businesses feel the effects of gas theft, too
Up north in Michigan, some retailers now require customers to pre-pay for gasoline with a credit card at the pump. Many stations across the country already demand this type of service; but some Mom-and-Pop shops still try to offer a level of customer service by allowing payment after filling.
“The increasing costs of fuel dramatically increased the number of drive-offs we are experiencing,” Michigan’s Britton Gas and Grocery said. “We have tried to avoid this for many years but can’t cover the costs of gas theft any longer.”
Authorities in British Columbia, Canada, have received weekly complaints regarding trucks with punctured gas tanks as of late.
“Thieves are not just siphoning gas out of the tank, they are drilling a hole in the tank leading to an expensive repair,” Elk Valley Royal Canadian Mounted Police Constable Debra A. Katerenchuk said. “The surging gas prices is one thing. But the cost to replace the gas tank is a lot more.”
On Monday, the price of regular gas in the US reached $4.14, breaking the previous record of $4.11 per gallon that had stood since 2008.