Gasoline thieves finding new ways to get gas

High gas prices have meant more gasoline thefts. Recently, the theft of gasoline from a Granger subdivision has local police concerned.

The most common way to steal gas is to fill your tank at a gas station and drive off. With more and more stations having pre-pay policies, those type of rip-offs are dwindling.

Some officials believe that may be contributing to a relatively new way to steal gas.

Over the past several months, there have been news stories out of places like Detroit, Kansas City and Baltimore about people waking up to empty gas tanks. And the way they're being emptied is both aggravating and downright dangerous.

Quiet, inexpensive cordless drills can be bought just about anywhere these days, and in some cases, they've apparently replaced the siphoning hose.

Earlier this month, one was apparently used to empty the tank of a Honda Pilot in a Granger subdivision.

“A gentleman reported up in the Northbrook Shores Subdivision that his gas tank was drilled into and several gallons of gas were drained out of it,” says Sgt. Regis Thimons of the St. Joseph County Police Department.

Right now, Thimons says this is the first report of this type of gas theft he's seen around here, and he hopes it's the last. “I've never heard of it in my 25 years of actually stealing gas in that way.”

“The obvious concern is the danger element. Gas is flammable. You use a cordless drill or whatever other method that they use to gain access and one spark could ignite it,” explains Officer Thimons about the dangers of this type of gas stealing. “You can't do that from long range, so you are going to be up close and personal to that gas tank and obviously if a fire ignites your talking some serious burns or death.”

Besides the potential human cost, there's the inevitable high repair cost to theft victim, not to mention the loss of an expensive fill-up.

“Gas tanks aren't cheap to replace. They're quite expensive. It's a tedious project and then you have to lose without your car for a day or two, to go without it,” says Officer Thimons.

Thankfully, these types of gas thefts are still pretty rare. But Thimons says you should still take every pre-caution necessary.

“If you have that access to the garage, use it,” explains Officer Thimons. “That's what they're designed for. If you don't, Neighborhood Watch. We've talked about it before. Have your neighbors kind of keep an eye out for you. Anybody up at night, take a look outside, see if there's any movement going on, use well lit areas to park your vehicle.”

And depending on the year, make and model of your car, replacing a gas tank could cost anywhere from $300 to $700.

Most independently owned repair shops, will no longer repair gas tanks because of liability issues. There are also fewer and fewer shops out there that make those kind of repairs, because it's cheaper to buy an after-market gas tank.

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