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Gas theft is on the rise as prices keep climbing

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David Ryder/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Gas prices in the U.S. are reaching record highs and are only set to keep rising after President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced a ban on energy imports from Russia. And now some people are reporting incidents of gasoline theft.

In Southern California, a viewer shared photographs with KTVU-TV showing what happened to one vehicle — how a thief had drilled a hole in the fuel tank and drained it of all the gas.


According to the American Automobile Association, gas siphoning and other crimes of theft are on the rise as prices at the pump keep skyrocketing.

"This is a sign of the times you know," AAA spokesman Doug Shupe told KTVU. "It's thieves looking for ways that they can make money by stealing what is becoming an increasingly more expensive and valuable commodity, gasoline."

The average price for a gallon of regular gas in California is currently $5.44, up from $3.75 last year. Price increases related to inflation have been exacerbated by the war in Ukraine, where Russia's full-scale invasion of the country has disrupted energy production. Additionally, U.S. economic sanctions and the Biden administration's action to ban oil and gas imports from Russia have restricted supply, further increasing prices.

"[It] used to be $60, then it went to $70, I think two weeks ago it was $90," California resident Mona Garcia told the local news station while filling up her car Monday night. When she had finished, the bill was $100.

Garcia said she uses a driveway camera and floodlight are meant to deter would-be thieves from stealing gas from her tank.

But for those who are victims of theft, the cost can be high. If thieves drill into your fuel tank, repairs can run more than $1,000, not including the stolen gas.

"Oftentimes vehicle owners who find themselves victims of this type of gasoline theft, they have to replace the entire gas tank," Shupe warned. "So it is a costly repair and replacement that needs to be made."

The risk isn't just to Californians. Last week, police in Atlanta, Georgia arrested a man suspected of drilling holes in multiple fuel tanks to steal thousands of dollars of gasoline, WAGA-TV reported.

AAA recommends that people take precautions against thieves while gas prices remain high, including parking the car in a locked garage if you have one. If you do not have access to a garage, it is recommended that you park in a well-lit area with high foot traffic or a fenced-in lot or parking garage, if available. When parking in a garage, vehicle owners should be mindful to park near the exit or elevator, areas with high visibility and foot traffic, AAA says.

Signs that your fuel tank may have been tampered with include the smell of gasoline, a puddle under your vehicle, or a lit check engine light. AAA recommends that anyone who suspects their gas was stolen file a police report and contact their vehicle insurance company to check if the repairs are covered.

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