Gas guzzlers

David Ranucci

As gas prices continue to rise, thieves find alternative ways to get fuel

An elderly woman pulled into the BP gas station on Main Street in Kent.

Station owner Param Singh said he turned on the pump for her because he was busy and she was old.

“She started pumping and left,” he said.

Singh lost $45.

Gas theft is becoming more popular as gas prices continue to rise.

Singh estimated he loses $1,200 a year in stolen gas. He said only about half of the people who steal from him are caught. Many thieves use fake, expired or stolen license plates.

But it’s not just losing gas that costs Singh.

Damage done to the station in some thefts can be costly as well.

“These young kids start pumping the gas and just sit in the car, then they run away with the nozzle still in the car,” he said.

Nozzles at his station are equipped with breakaway lines, which are designed to snap off instead of damaging the entire pump.

Despite these measures, repairs still cost him $120 every time it happens, and he said it happens at least once a week.

Tank trouble

Gas thieves aren’t only targeting gas stations. They’re also targeting gas tanks.

Nathan Duvuvuei, an Ashland choir teacher, has had thieves siphon gas out of his tank.

He said he had his gas stolen three times over a two-week period.

“You … don’t expect it to happen twice,” he said, “certainly not three times.”

Despite individual gas thefts becoming more common, people are not reporting them.

“I didn’t figure (there) was anything (the police) could do about it,” Duvuvuei said.

John Bergamini, sophomore visual communication design major, said he had his gas siphoned in Cleveland.

“If you can’t afford gas, you probably shouldn’t have a car,” he said.

Lock it

With their cars becoming targets, some citizens are doing what they can to stop gas thieves by equipping their vehicles with locking gas caps.

Josh Moore, acting manager of AutoZone in Kent, said any time there is a rumor of a fuel price increase, people seem to stock up on gas and locking gas caps, which cost $10 to $20.

“As soon as gas hit $3.99 at Sheetz, almost instantly we had people coming in and buying more locking fuel caps,” he said.

Gas thieves commonly strike in large apartment complex parking lots where there is a lot of pedestrian traffic, Moore said.

While locking gas caps do add security to your gas tank, some people choose not to use them.

Bergamini said he thought about getting a locking cap but decided it was not worth the $20 price tag.

Others who have trouble opening the locking caps end up returning them, Moore said.

He said a locking cap is still more secure than a regular one, and it is similar in price.

But even locking gas caps don’t prevent determined gas thieves.

“People just break off locking caps,” Singh said.

Contact transportation reporter David Ranucci at [email protected].