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Fuel thefts are rising
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Gasoline and diesel prices have reached a point where they are causing financial hardships for most people - especially commuters and others who must drive many miles each week in order to make a living. To make matters worse, the value of automotive fuel is making it a worthy target of thieves. We have seen some signs of the much-anticipated rash of fuel thefts from cars, trucks and other storage containers, and as fuel prices increase, as they have almost daily, there should be a more significant increase in the number of these kinds of thefts.

In anticipation of the expected surge in fuel thefts, we are recommending that car owners use locking gas caps on all of their vehicles. Locking gas caps are not a sure thing, however. Some thieves merely pry the caps off or punch holes in tanks to drain the fuel. Using a locking cap is most instances in enough to cause the potential thief to go elsewhere. Car alarms are helpful, and even though false alarms are common, the noise is annoying enough as to dissuade most would-be gas thieves. If possible, park your car in the garage. If there is no garage, park in a well lighted area that is easy to observe from your home or your neighbors' homes.

Gas thieves will arrive in most any conveyance, including on foot, riding bicycles, pushing shopping carts or driving cars or pick-up trucks. Be immediately suspicious, especially at night, if you see a person in a residential area carrying a hose and gas container. Of course, not all persons carrying gas containers are up to "no good," but it is less suspicious if they appear to be headed to a gas station. Nevertheless, keep an eye on people who appear to be suspicious. Call the police if necessary.

Gas station owners and operators should also be cautious. The high fuel prices may lead to more instances of fraud where persons attempt to use stolen credit cards, counterfeit money or other scams to get a tank full of gasoline or diesel. In the past when a fill-up might cost $25 to $30, there was less incentive for people to resort to theft or fraud to get their fuel. Now that a larger sedan, pick-up truck or SUV might cost close to $120 to fill the tank, the incentive for thievery is much greater. When you figure that many people go through a tank of gas each week, the costs reach a point where it is simply no longer affordable. Honest people make the necessary adjustments to their budget to adapt to this new challenge. People of low or no morals turn to theft.

There are no indications that fuel prices will return to the more affordable levels. In fact, fuel prices are usually higher during the summer, and if there are any fuel supply interruptions or threats (like the alleged recent attack on a fuel tanker in the Middle East), the prices will spike even further. Regardless of the reasons, it appears that the high fuel prices are here to stay for a while, with the likelihood of their rising substantially higher in the future. I urge you to be prepared as the stakes for fuel thievery go higher.