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Fill it up, then lock it up; gas theft rising along with prices

Posted May 29, 2008

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— Retail gas prices rose Thursday to a new record above $3.95 a gallon. As prices soar, vehicle fuel tanks are becoming a target for thieves – fueling a boom in sales of locking gas caps.

“I knew how much gas I had,” Apex Town Manager Bruce Radford said.

Radford said he rented a car and left his truck at the rental car company overnight in what he thought was a safe place.

“It (truck) was well protected, very visible,” he added. “I came back the next morning, cranked the car, looked down at the gas needle and it was completely empty."

Thieves used Radford's truck as a gas pump – siphoning $50 worth of gas out of it.

“It doesn't take long to siphon out 10 (to) 15 gallons of gas and be on your way,” Apex Police Chief Jack Lewis said.

Stealing gas is a crime of opportunity that drivers can help prevent, Lewis said.

Drivers who don't release control their gas caps from inside their cars should look into purchasing a gas-cap lock that can cost $15 to $20.

“Opportunist criminals are looking for the easiest in and out, the fastest, the quickest way and they're gone and that's what happens,” Lewis said.

Radford said he considered a locked gas cap, but is holding off, for now.

“If this continues to happen, then I'll make that decision. But for the time being, we'll see how tough times get,” he added.

To help keep thieves away from your gas tank:

  • Try to park in a well-lit area with plenty of foot traffic.
  • Park with your gas cap facing a curb or park between two vehicles. That makes it difficult for someone to pull up next to you and siphon your gas.
24 Comments

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  • amlebede May 30, 2008

    Why would any sane thief steal something cheap?

  • Worland May 30, 2008

    Maybe it depends on brand of vehicle, but I haven't owned a truck in 20 years that you could get a hose into the tank to siphon out the gas. There's something about a foot down the pipe that blocks a siphon hose.

    I would be very careful buying a locking gas cap, especially for a new vehicle. You need one that will vent the same as the OEM cap. If not, you'll either get a light on the dash or the plastic tank will get sucked up into the fuel sending unit and the car will stall.

  • jsanders May 30, 2008

    "I don't recall this same reaction to drive-off's at gas stations. The dealer is just as much the vict as you are."

    OLD PIRATE 2, I was thinking along the same lines as you. I was going to say, hey, they wouldn't have a problem with it in Wilmington:
    http://www.johnlocke.org/lockerroom/lockerroom.html?id=15429

  • Southern Fried Yankee May 30, 2008

    Scenario......You just filled up your tank in anticipation of evacuating in front of an oncoming Cat IV hurricane. You'll leave the next morning. At that time, you discover your tank siphoned dry. You're stuck.

    Now THAT should be a capital crime.

  • bigbr0ther May 30, 2008

    I had one of these caps on my Jeep and it actually did make my check engine light come on. So do be aware of that. I know it will be pretty hard for someone to get to my gas tank to drill a hole in it being I got a thick skid plate over it. But if they want your gas bad enough, they will get it. Maybe one of them will be a idiot and hit a truck or car that burns diesel and mistake it for gas. That will ruin their day.

  • Hot Mama in WF May 30, 2008

    I swear that I this happened to me a few weeks ago, my future ex and the guy at the Advance Auto store thought I was out of my mind. I knew I had 1/2 a tank when I pulled into my space, when I left in the morning, had 0. They told me that my car (2002) was to new to have this happen to. I bought a locking cap anyway. Where there is a will, there is a way.

  • kstor33 May 30, 2008

    Where do we purchase these gas cap locks?

  • mondosinistro May 30, 2008

    For a long time I did lock my car, as I once had $300 of damage done on a new car, when somebody tried to break in, when in fact there was nothing in the car to steal anyway. But this changes the equation. Too easy to flip that level up otherwise.

    Another thing to note: Apparently, in some cases, siphoning gas by disconnecting the fuel line can be thwarted if you park your car facing a little uphill.

  • tarheelblue919 May 30, 2008

    heres the thing, whether you lock you gas tank or not, if someone has the time, they will just drill a whole in your gastank and move on to the next one, i'd rather leave mine open and by another tank of gas, then replace a gas tank....

  • tarheel22 May 30, 2008

    I just hope when someone gets shot trying to steal gas that the "system" puts the correct person in jail. We all know how this will play out. You defend your property and the thief goes free while you go to jail for trying to keep the scum from stealing your stuff. Then the scum sues you for damages. What a "System"!!!!

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