Friday, June 13, 2008

Gas-and-dash thefts on the rise, retailers say

Gas thieves are striking far more frequently, say station owners across the country as pump prices continue to rise.

Wayne Pace, who operates a service station Tantallon, N.S., says he's had to be even more vigilant lately about people who fill their tanks and take off without paying.

"It's become more of a problem now that the price of gas is going up," he said. "We're experiencing it now a couple of times a week versus a couple of times a year."

In Burlington, Ont., Bassam Hammoud says his gas station has been hit three times in the past three days. Two of the thefts were committed in broad daylight, he said.

"It's all from my own pocket and I have to pay it myself," he said.

Bob Tilley, author of Shoplifters on Wheels, said consumers who gas-and-dash are seeking to retaliate against big oil companies and retailers.

"There's this situation where the consumer feels that they want to get back at the retailer or big oil and obviously they're going to take advantage," he said.

A probe by the Competition Bureau that found an alleged price-fixing scheme among gas retailers in Quebec is likely to intensify consumer anger, said Charles Tanguay, a spokesman for l’Union des Consommateurs.

Meanwhile, thieves have also begun targeting parked cars, siphoning gas from tanks. Jamie Lyn Pearson of Saanich, B.C., said her tank was nearly emptied when she stopped at the mall.

"I had enough to make it to the gas station that was like two minutes away so that was nice of them," she said.

Calgary Police Services spokesman Kevin Brookwell said authorities won't likely step up their presence at service stations.

"It's really hard to predict when these crimes are going to happen so as far as proactively trying to police service stations … it's probably not the best use of our resources," he said.

Ed Whitehouse, the district manager for Ontario's Pioneer Gas, said many gas dealers don't want to force their customers to pay before they pump.

"It's inconvenient for everyone because you never really know how much you're going to buy and so on and so forth, so we don't want to force it," he said.

The national average for a litre of gasoline in Canada reached $1.38 on Friday. On Monday, pump prices crossed the $1.50 threshold, with gas stations in Montreal charging drivers as much as $1.51 per litre.

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