Staggering prices have prompted a wave of gas thieves to become criminally creative in their efforts to avoid the rising costs of a gallon.
Although AAA reported a national average around $5 per gallon, earlier this month, a downtown Los Angeles station reached $8 – nearly $2 over the state average – for a gallon of regular fuel, according to The New York Post.
The West Coast leads in high gas prices with Washington, Oregon, and Arizona, in addition to California, all averaging more than $5 a gallon while states like Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana come in just under the national average, AAA reports.
This nationwide rise stirred panic and some have found illegal ways around the hefty price of a full tank. In Virginia Beach, two men were charged with grand larceny, conspiracy, and possession of burglary tool, accused of stealing thousands of dollars’ in fuel this week from a closed local Citgo station, CNN reports.
According to the Virginia Beach Police Department, they used “devices” to take the gas from pumps – then sold it at a discounted price, advertising on social media.
Local news reported highly modified trucks “being used to steal tens of thousands of gallons” during the past few months from Las Vegas gas stations. Police grew suspicious of motorists spending over an hour at gas pumps – yet paying only $20 – and discovered they were filling hidden tanks.
In California, residents are being warned that their cars also are potential targets for fuel thieves. Gas theft could leave car owners with costly damage to their tanks as power tools replace rubber hoses to siphon out fuel, Fontana Police Department told KTLA.
In Utah this week, a man was captured on surveillance as he caught fire attempting to steal gas from a truck, Newsweek reports. Branch manager of Summit Fire and Protection, Travis Mills, told the local news station that the company’s trucks have been targeted before.
“It’s sad because times are tough for a lot of people, but it’s not worth the $5 that he would have saved for the injury that the guy sustained,” Mills told the station.
Although Florida’s average cost of a gallon is below the national average, Tampa Bay-area police uncovered a gas theft ring in February. According to NBC News, the six men are in custody, accused of stealing at least $60,000 in fuel from several stations in the area.
A June report from AAA predicted continued pump price shock. “As crude oil prices remain volatile, the price per gallon for gasoline will likely remain elevated,” it said.