Driveoff Days

N.Y. senator pushes gas theft bill; stations experimenting with deterrents

ALBANY, N.Y. New York State Senator Mary Lou Rath (R) is again asking her Assembly colleagues to adopt a bill that would deter motorists from gassing up and taking off without paying, according to a report by Buffalo Business First. Rath's measure, twice passed in the state Senate, would have a driver's license suspended for such a violation, the report said.

"Although we're all frustrated by rising prices at the pump, it is certainly not justifiable to steal from local business owners," she said. She noted that 25 other states have adopted similar [image-nocss] legislation.

She renewed her call for the legislation following the recent death of Husain Tony Caddi, of Fort Payne, Ala. Caddi, the 54-year-old owner of the Fort Payne Texaco, died last week after he grabbed onto the vehicle of an escaping gasoline thief, who dragged him across the parking lot and onto the highway after stealing $52 worth of fuel. Caddi fell from the vehicle and was run over by the vehicle's rear wheel. A search for the driver and a gold or tan Jeep-style SUV continues, said the Associated Press.

With the increasing gasoline prices, there has been a rise in the number of driveoffs at gas stations nationwide. Many retailers have gone to a pay-before-you-pump system. Tulsa-based QuikTrip, meanwhile, is using a pump card, called PumpStart, for registered motorists to initiate fueling.

A Phillips 66 station in Roseland, Ind., is also taking a proactive approach to stopping gas thieves. Trying to constantly watch for driveoffs is tough for the cashiers inside the store, so the owners are turning to customers outside for help. They are offering rewards to help catch criminals who do not pay for gasoline.

To combat the problem, the station plans on adding more security cameras, but they are also trying something differentan incentive program for customers to help catch the crooks. If someone reports a driveoff happening, they will get a $10 reward in the form of free gasoline. Give us his plate number, give us the make and model of the car and what [the driver] looks like, and we're ready, Nester said. Just like Crimestoppers, we won't tell your information. Just help us out and you get $10 in free gas.

If convicted, a gas thief could face up to one year in prison and a maximum fine of $5,000, as well as loss of driver's license for 30 days.

A Morgantown, W.Va., station is displaying pictures of driveoff suspects, said The State Journal. At McBee's Exxon, managers put up a board with pictures and information about drivers who have stolen gasoline from the station.

They said the signs seem to be working. "Actually there's a lot of people looking at it," manager Michael Shissler told the newspaper. "There's people commenting on it saying 'hey, I think I know those people, or they look familiar'." He added that they have been able to track down some drivers because of the signs. There are currently no plans to make their pumps prepay. If there are more driveoffs, managers say that could happen.

And in Beaumont, Texas, the Beaumont Police Department has issued an advisory to all fueling stations in Southeast Texas after several gasoline thefts have been discovered in the area, reported KBTV4. Investigators said someone has gained the generic access code to fueling stations and, along with a special keypad normally used by fueling station technicians, are gaining access to the pumps. They said once pumps are placed in a standalone mode communications from the pumps to the clerk inside the station is terminated. The thief can then easily pump fuel free of charge. The police department recommended that stations change the generic code to a personal business code and remove their keypads.

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