"There has been a definite increase in drive-offs in the area," Brazil City Police Captain Dave Archer told The Brazil Times Tuesday morning, while dispatching a city patrolman to a Brazil service station for a drive-off. "It depends on the day how many reports we get, but the department is responding to more and more incidents as the gas prices rise."
Managers of local gas stations and convenience stores owned by large corporations told The Times they are unauthorized to make statements for their respective companies, but privately voiced concern over the growing problem.
Although "the thief" may save a few bucks, customers could end up footing the bill.
Some local service stations report experiencing as many as five or six customers pumping gas and then driving off without paying on a weekly basis. Ranging from $10- $100 per incident, managers said the amount of loss for the individual stations quickly adds up and could potentially cause corporate offices to raise local prices to compensate for the loss.
Several managers said they understand when "local customers" make honest mistakes, because they usually return, apologize and pay for their gas within a few minutes of making the error.
A variety of theft prevention measures are in place at local service stations, including video cameras, pre-pay and pumping verification by attendants. But, according to service station managers, career gas thieves know how to get away without being noticed by using some form of decoy.
Some thieves will use the outside pumps or the pumps furthest away from the building so they can't be seen, while others wait for when a service station is really busy to fill their tank, lay down the fuel nozzle and then drive away.
Thieves have also been reported to work together to perform gas thefts. Thieves will travel in pairs, or a group, so one can pretend to have a problem at the pump, distracting attendants, while the other(s) drive-off.
"Because some people are choosing to steal rather than change their spending habits, consumers are ultimately going to pay for their crimes in the form of higher prices," one manager said. "We have had customers who witnessed a drive-off come inside and give us the make and model of the car, and sometimes even the license plate numbers."
However, many of the license plate numbers reported involved in recent drive-offs have been local plate numbers.
"It's disheartening because you don't know if it was an honest mistake, if they don't really have the money to pay or if they just don't care and would prefer to steal," another manager said. "We've had license plate numbers from within 30 miles or so, which belong to our local residents, our customers."
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