Rising gasoline prices fueling costly thefts from pickup trucks

AAA is reporting a slight drop in gas prices, but could this trend continue over the next...
AAA is reporting a slight drop in gas prices, but could this trend continue over the next several weeks?(Source;NBC12 | NBC12)
Published: Mar. 15, 2022 at 10:13 PM CDT
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OVERLAND PARK, KS (KCTV) -- These days you’re probably paying $50 or more to fuel up.

If that’s not enough strain on your wallet, those high prices might be prompting people to steal gas straight from your tank. There have been three cases in less than three weeks in the Kansas City metro.

On Feb. 26, Overland Park police got a report from a U-Haul near 76th and Metcalf that someone had drilled into one the rental truck’s fuel tanks overnight and drained it of gasoline.

“The first thing I thought was just, ‘Well, that’s weird. I haven’t seen that type of report in a long time. It’s been a couple years.’ But now that we’ve had two other incidents in the area, now it’s a little concerning,” said Officer John Lacy, the Overland Park Police Department’s public information officer. “I’m afraid that if the gas prices increase on us, we can see more of this.”

The next two thefts were in Independence. Those police reports, filed on March 8 and March 9, both involve pickups hit overnight in homeowners’ driveways. The two homes hit are less than a mile apart. Both vehicles were 2006 Dodge Ram trucks. One victim described a 30-gallon gas tank with $100-worth of gasoline.

Update: Kansas City police initially said they had no such reports in their city. On Wednesday, a department spokesman provided an update, saying they have received no more than ten such reports in recent weeks.

“It’s something we are watching but not nearly a problem on the scale of catalytic converters, of which hundreds are stolen each year citywide,” said Sgt. Jake Becchina.

If you get hit, it could cost you more than the gasoline taken, because the thieves are no longer siphoning gasoline.

“Newer vehicles have a ‘roll-over’ valve between the fuel tank and filler neck intended to prevent gas from spilling out, to lessen the chance of a fire, in the event of a rollover. But that same valve also makes siphoning gas much more difficult,” says Shawn Steward, spokesman for AAA Kansas. “So, thieves seeking the path of least resistance now access the fuel by drilling directly into the tank.”

AAA indicates the repair bill for the damage could be as much as $1,000.

AAA offers the following tips to protect against gasoline theft:

  • Park in the garage at your home if you have one.
  • When out in public, park in a well-lit area with high traffic. If possible, park in a secure location like a fenced-in lot or parking garage.
  • When parking in a garage, find a spot near the exit or elevator as those have the most visibility and foot traffic
  • If parking on the street, when possible, park with your gas tank on the street side.

Lacy was concerned about that last piece of advice. Sure, it could discourage a thief who doesn’t want to run the risk of being run over, but it could also lead to someone getting hurt.

His at-home suggestions included parking in the garage if possible, in addition to the following:

  • Check that your security lighting is working.
  • Activate your car alarm. Some are very sensitive, and the vibration of drilling could be enough to sound the alarm.
  • Install security cameras or check the ones you have to be sure they are working. Police say security footage is often how they catch thieves before they go on to do more damage.

AAA recommends looking for the following signs if you suspect gas theft:

  • The smell of gas as you approach your vehicle.
  • Puddle underneath your vehicle near the location of the fuel tank.
  • The vehicle does not start.
  • The vehicle starts but the fuel gauge shows lower than it was when you last drove.
  • The check engine light (yellow) is illuminated.

AAA recommends victims of gas theft that may have damaged the vehicle:

  • Contact the police to file a report.
  • Reach out to your insurance company to see if your policy covers related repairs.
  • Take your vehicle to a trusted repair facility as soon as possible.