Operation Safer Streets: A Spike in Gas Drive-offs

By: Meghan Dwyer
By: Meghan Dwyer

ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- It may be dreary outside today but that hasn't stopped gas prices from climbing like it's summer.

Because of high prices more people are stealing gas and some Stateline gas stations are being forced to install more pre-pay pumps.

Road Ranger Director of Fuels R.J. Rymas said, "Without quoting numbers I can tell you it's become a big enough problem that in the last three months or so we've added more pre-pay pumps than we did all of last year."

Since January of 2011, Rockford gas stations have reported 507 gas thefts. Gas has been stolen more than forty times at some of the worst hit stations-meaning thieves know where to go to get away with it.

One Mobil station on Sandy Hollow road has had nearly 70 gas drive offs in the last 14 months. That’s nearly one person stealing gas every week, but the station is still not prepay.

Rymas said, "Customers don't want pre-pay, you know, it's inconvenient."

Only 15 percent of pumps at Road Ranger gas stations are pre-pay, but that's slowly changing because the company keeps losing money from gas drive-offs and it's hard for law enforcement to catch the thieves.

Rymas said, "It saves law enforcement a lot of time chasing down gas drive off thieves."

It might be inconvenient for people paying cash, but nearly 90 percent of road ranger's customers use a credit or debit card.

Road Ranger doesn't have stations that are entirely pre-pay--it only applies to a few pumps: those that are hard to see from behind the cash register or those closest to the road. We were not able to talk to Kelley Williamson who owns many of the Mobil stations in town because the owner is on vacation.

According to a breakdown of all the thefts over the course of the last year they don’t favor a time of the day. There were 70 thefts in the first two months of this year: that's almost twice as many as last year.

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