Driveoffs: The Jersey Perspective

Full service makes gas theft rare

NEWARK, N.J. --With gasoline prices remaining above $2 a gallon, a growing number of states and businesses are seeking to crack down on a surge of driveoff gasoline thefts, reported the Newhouse News Service.

In recent months, legislatures in Iowa, South Dakota and Oklahoma joined the 26 other states that have passed laws imposing tougher penalties on motorists who fill up and drive away without paying. In at least one other state, New York, the sponsor of such a bill is hopeful action can occur soon, said the report.

Meanwhile, [image-nocss] some gas station owners are taking their own preventive steps, from issuing special cards for customers preferring to pay cash to putting extra employees at pump islands, it added.

In New Jersey, however, driveoff gasoline theft is not a problem because the state's 3,600 gas stations are not self-service, Bill Dressler, director of the New Jersey Gasoline Retailers Association, told the news service. With full service, we simply do not have the scenario where people gas up and do not pay because we have attendants, he said. I was in Washington [D.C.] a few weeks ago with the national organization, and it is a major problem in self-service states.

Dressler said the lack of gas thefts is another argument for retaining full service in New Jersey. It is the best thing that could happen, he said. You get the best of two worlds, no theft, people pump gas for you and there is no concern about getting out of your car.

Oregon is the only other state that does not allow self-service gas stations and, like New Jersey, it does not have a gas theft problem, according to the report.

Dressler said full service also helps keep New Jersey gasoline prices lower than neighboring states.

In New Jersey, gasoline theft is a disorderly persons offense, punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $500. No legislation has been introduced to toughen the penalty, the report said.

New York state Assemblyman Pat Casale (R) said Democrats have expressed interest in supporting legislation he introduced to suspend convicted thieves' licenses for a year in addition to the current misdemeanor penalty of up to one year in prison and a $1,000 fine.

Why be soft with these people? Casale said.