As the price of regular gasoline averages $3.88 a gallon, up $1.02 from last year and likely to climb higher, people increasingly are pumping gas and driving off without paying, stealing from other motorists, and ripping off large quantities from municipalities and businesses, reports USA Today. Gasoline thefts cost convenience store operators, which sell 80 percent of the fuel in the U.S., more than $90 million in 2009. “No question that’s up,” says National Association of Convenience Stores spokesman Jeff Lenard. “Any business that still allows you to pump gas first and then pay can be taken advantage of.”
Pump-first, pay-later gas outlets are mainly in the Midwest and West, where some chains, such as Maverik, are seeing increases in gas “drive-offs.” The firm’s Nancy Couch says drive-offs total about 1 percent of sales and typically increase as gas prices rise. In Moorhead, Mn., Police Chief David Ebinger is stepping up patrols to combat rising thefts at Stop-N-Go outlets. In Conover, N.C., 280 gallons of fuel were stolen from eight trucks at Penske truck rental.