Local News

Durham Police Want to Crack Down on Deadbeat Pumpers

Posted November 27, 2000

— Gasoline is more expensive, and drivers may soon have to add another frustration to filling up. Durham lawmakers want to change the way you pay at the pumps.

The Durham Police Department is urging the City Council to consider an ordinance that would require people to pay before they are allowed to pump. Police believe that would eliminate the growing problem of gas thefts.

In the past year, more than 800 people filled up and drove off without paying, police say.

"It's so easy to pull into a station, pump the gas and if it's during a busy time, there's no way a convenience store clerk can keep an eye on 10 cars," says Lt. Ed Sarvis with the Durham Police Department.

It is a frustrating problem that costs gas station operators a lot of money.

"Well, they've had $1,000 worth in just one week's time in just this district," says assistant store manager Mary Lou Allen. "This is bad, and the police cannot go chase all these people down."

Without a license plate, there is little hope of ever catching the thieves. Durham police believe the answer to eliminating the crime is to require people to pay before they are allowed to pump.

Drivers have mixed feelings about the proposal.

"I really can't blame them," says driver Lee Franklin. "I imagine they have a lot of people drive off, especially during the holidays when money is tight."

"If I go in there, I've got a give her $20 or $100 or whatever takes," says Norman Taylor, who opposes the proposal. "Two, four, six, eight people going in there with money [for the cashier] to hold. How do they know whose money is whose?"

Durham police say that eliminating gas thefts could lower the city's overall crime rate by 5 percent.

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