Thefts of fuel from service stations are rising with the price of gasoline, says USA Today. States are imposing stiffer penalties for pump-and-run pirates. With the average price of a gallon of regular gas, $2.21, near record levels this holiday weekend, gas station owners say thefts are soaring. In response, at least 10 states have stiffened penalties this year or are considering it. “Our drive-offs are up probably 100 percent” this year, says Jeff Miller of Norfolk, Va., president of a company that operates 88 gas stations and convenience stores selling gas. “We’re on track to lose about a quarter of a million dollars” in 2005.
Gas retailers lost $234 million to theft in 2004, more than double the amount in 2003, says the National Association of Convenience Stores. The annual loss averaged $2,141 per store. Among states that have acted: a new Minnesota law allows 30-day license suspensions, on top of misdemeanor theft penalties, for a pump-and-run conviction; Iowa is suspending licenses for second offenses; Oklahoma raised the fine to $500 from $100, plus up to 60 days in jail. Virginia, which added license suspensions in 2003, raises the fine today to $250 from $100.