Pump the Brakes on Gas Theft
Since March 2022, AAA has warned motorists that as gas prices rose, so would gasoline theft. And these predictions have proven true. With the wild variances in gas prices, sometimes quadruple what they were even a few years ago, it’s no wonder gasoline has become a coveted commodity.
The Atlantic Council estimates that the cost of people stealing gas adds up to hundreds of billions of dollars every year. Part of the reason is that thieves stealing gas from cars often cause damage that far exceeds the value of the gasoline stolen. Gas theft is a big problem, and it requires big solutions.
Clever Gas Theft Tactics
As gasoline theft increases, it’s also becoming more sophisticated.
Most people think siphoning gas out of a vehicle’s tank is “the” way gasoline gets stolen. And while that still happens with older vehicles, newer models have a feature called an anti-rollover valve, which prevents gas from spilling in the event of a car accident. Simultaneously, the valve makes it more difficult to siphon from the tank. Can gas be siphoned from newer cars? Perhaps, but it’s not easy.
- Drilling: Many thieves drill directly into the gas tank to gain access. They need only a few seconds with a battery-powered tool to create a hole and then a few more to fill up bottles or jugs with fuel. As you’d imagine, this causes expensive damage to the vehicle. Because it’s often easier to replace the tank than repair it, victims might pay $1,000 or more at the mechanic. This method affects both consumers and businesses, especially those with an accessible fleet of parked cars.
- Pump bypass systems: This one hurts businesses. How does it work? Thieves change the pulsar inside the dispenser that reads how many gallons have been dispensed and at what price. Groups of thieves typically fill up several cars at the same pump at a fraction of the proper price.
- Trapdoors: A minivan stealing gas through a hidden door sounds like a heist movie, but it’s more common than you’d think. Thieves park over the underground storage tank lids and remove hundreds of gallons of fuel into large holding tanks inside the minivan. Many thieves pull off a trap door gas theft over a period of several days, taking up to $2,000 worth of fuel.
Proactive Gas Theft Prevention for Businesses
Whether you have a gas station, dealership, or any other business with a fleet of vehicles, you’re a target for fuel theft. And that can be a big hit to your bottom line. Take steps to protect your fuel supplies.
- Control access: Park fleet vehicles indoors. Consider fenced-in lots, garages, or other enclosed spaces near your business. If you can’t do that, park vehicles close to each other or to a wall to block tank access. In addition, maintain your fencing to ensure there aren’t gaps.
- Try gadgets: Add fuel tank anti-siphons to vehicles if they aren’t already present. Also, consider investing in fuel sensors linked to fleet management software and creating “exception alerts.” These will flag your mobile device as soon as someone draws fuel outside of normal hours.
- Be vigilant: Monitor the pumps farthest from the store, which are often the “favorites” among thieves. In addition, ensure that your exterior lights are bright. Watch for any large vehicles parked over fill caps. Maintain good sightlines and keep windows clear. And post signs that tell people they’re being watched.
- Install business security cameras: Invest in surveillance cameras to monitor the lot and especially the fuel dispensers. Catching thieves on camera is, of course, helpful. But gas theft is a fast and hard-to-trace crime, so a monitored service with live intervention is even better. Gas stations and auto dealers across the country trust Deep Sentinel’s live security team to protect their businesses. The system combines AI and live intervention to stop crimes. And it works—gas theft is just one of the many crimes Deep Sentinel prevents.
- Stay up-to-date: Regularly evaluate your security measures. Be a good community partner by staying in touch with the local police. As an added benefit, you’ll be more aware of crime trends and loss-prevention measures.
Protecting Your Personal Vehicles
If you own a vehicle, you can take several proactive efforts to protect your gas tank.
- Park wisely: An enclosed space for your vehicle, like a garage, is always preferable to parking in the driveway or on the street. If you have to park in the driveway, park close to the house. This may be a good time to install security lights if you don’t already have them. And if you must park on the street, park in a well-lit area and position your car so the fuel door is pointing into the street, where a thief is more likely to attract witnesses.
- Lock up: Invest in locking fuel doors or gas locks for cars, which should set you back only $15 to $25. A thief can manipulate and breach these, but it requires more effort. And to a crook, more effort means a less appealing target.
- Don’t abandon ship: If you carpool or take public transportation, try to avoid leaving your car parked in one place for extended periods of time. The same applies to places such as airport garages.
- Use home security cameras: Particularly if you park a car in your driveway, exterior surveillance cameras are a must. A good system can give you an early warning, record any theft, and (with live security monitoring) even stop the crime entirely. Hint: check out Deep Sentinel.
Stop Gas Theft for Good
Whether you’re a consumer or a business, the fuel pirates aren’t being choosy. Taking a few proactive steps can help protect your valuable fuel and your peace of mind. Watch Deep Sentinel stop gas theft (and other crimes) in a compilation of real customer footage below.