"Theft is theft, no matter whether it's for a candy bar or a gallon of gas," Brazil City Police Chief Terry Harrison told The Brazil Times Wednesday. "With the prices rising like they are, gas might as well be gold right now. Obviously we can't catch everyone who drives off without paying, but we will work with what evidence we got. If someone does this enough times, sooner or later, they will be caught."
According to information provided by Harrison, Patrolman Chris Blila arrested Dawn E. Smith, 37, at her home after driving off in her black Jeep Wrangler without paying for $10.70 in fuel at Gas America shortly before 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.
"Smith apparently went inside and gave the attendant a false name, said that she forgot her money in the car and then drove off," Harrison said. "People need to be aware there are security measures at service stations. When Blila watched the video, he recognized Smith."
Because of Smith's vehicle and her behavior during the incident, Harrison confirmed the department is actively investigating the case to see if Smith has been involved in other recent drive-offs in the area.
"Service stations can't afford for people to not pay. Citizens can't afford it either," Harrison said. "People who do this need to understand that when we catch them, there isn't an option to pay at that time. They already had that option and chose not to do it. They refused to pay. If we don't arrest these people, it sets a dangerous precedent for all those that attempt to drive off in the future."
As gas prices continue to rise, Harrison expects officers to respond to more and more reports of drive-offs at service stations.
"Service stations are going to have to take some extra steps to protect themselves against gasoline thefts," Harrison said. "I'm surprised that they haven't all gone to pre-pay to protect themselves against these types of losses."
A local service station manager contacted The Brazil Times to let the public know that this affects people personally.
"If enough of these types of incidents happen during the same time frame, a cashier can get in trouble for not paying enough attention," the station manager said. "People need to know that when they do this, they could be costing someone their job."
Jail officials confirmed Wednesday evening that Smith was still incarcerated on a $7,000 cash bond with no 10 percent while awaiting formal arraignment on a class D felony charge of theft per the court calendar.