LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. — As prices at the pump continue to soar, gasoline thefts are also on the rise in Pennsylvania.
“As prices go up, people are going to get more desperate and they’re finding other ways to get the gas other than paying for it,” said Trooper Kevin Kochka, public information officer for Troop J of the Pennsylvania State Police.
One suspect in Northampton County was caught filling up his tank and driving away without paying.
Just last month, Al’s Service Center in East Cocalico Township had two different customers needing repairs after their fuel tanks were drilled into.
“We were just kind of scanning along the gas tank and sure enough, there’s a hole right there between the frame and the belly of the tank…it’s crazy,” said Gary Ward, head mechanic at Al’s Service Center.
For those victims, it’s an unfortunate incident that cost a pretty penny.
“You can’t really patch it, [so] you have to get a new tank and that could be anywhere from $500 to $600, then you’re losing your $5.00 gas on top of it,” explained Ward.
The trend also has dealerships like Lancaster Dodge Ram Fiat seeing a spike in customers looking to buy fuel cap locks.
“We haven’t seen calls in a few years for that kind of thing, but all of a sudden we are getting calls for [them],” said Sherman Flowers, a parts manager at Lancaster Dodge.
Those locks don’t always work for newer cars, as a lot of them now have capless tanks.
Auto experts say many of these vehicles also have rollover valves inside of them.
The valves prevent fuel leaks in a potential crash but can protect you against having gasoline stolen out of your tank too.
“That same ball valve that prevents gas getting out, will also prevent people from getting a tube or something in there to siphon your gas,” said Flowers.
Trooper Kochka says the best way to avoid being a victim is to park in well-lit, well-populated areas.
“If you’re parallel parking, make sure if you can with your gas tank toward the road so they can’t stick in the middle of the road essentially to commit that crime,” he said.
Depending on the amount of damage done, an individual who commits this kind of crime can be charged with a misdemeanor or felony offense.
If you believe your vehicle has been hit by a gasoline thief, you should contact local or state police.