High Gas Prices Fuel Gas Thefts - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

4/29/08

High Gas Prices Fuel Gas Thefts

Gas prices are 50 cents more than they were just ten weeks ago in the Lubbock area.

NewsChannel 11 we found prices hovering between $3.43 up to $3.57 for unleaded gasoline. Diesel prices have topped the $4.00 mark. As prices climb, Lubbock Police say it's typical to see an increase in gasoline theft.

Despite surging gas prices, Murphy USA in the 1900 block of 4th Street is busy with both paying and non-paying customers.

"I had two of them for a $131," Store Manger Reggie Armendariz said.

Armendariz says two customers drove up and filled up, but did not come up to pay Monday. Therefore, Armendariz went to investigate.

"They try to hit me when they see a lot of vehicles in each lane and think that my cashiers aren't paying attention but I've got monitors inside," Armendariz said. Armendariz pulled up a camera image from one of the several mounted surveillance cameras at the gas station.

"I went to check to make sure the customer did attempt to pay. They did not. I got the vehicle number and turned it over to police," Armendariz added.

"They came back and paid for it after we contacted them to avoid prosecution," Sgt. Robert Ferguson said.

Ferguson says high gas prices drive up the dollar amount stolen. He adds the average gasoline drive off is between $60 and $75. However, as the amount increases so does the fine.

"Over $50 it's a Class B misdemeanor theft. The sentence is up to 6 months in jail and up to a $2,000 fine or both," Ferguson added.

It's a sentence Ferguson says is sought if the stolen gas is not paid back. Armendariz says he expects to see more drive-offs as the price of gas continues to climb.

"They don't want to pay to fill up their car and they just fill up and take off," Armendariz said. He added, "I do plan to get my money back."

Armendariz says last month alone about $600 worth of gasoline was driven off with. Armendariz says he expects to recover about 80% of that money, and the rest will result in charges.

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