Warnings are being sent out by two Kansas City area police departments, including Overland Park’s, after a handful of recent reported incidents of fuel being stolen from vehicles’ fuel tanks.
The incidents come as gas prices have spiked in the U.S. over the past month, hitting a national average of $4.33 a gallon on Monday, according to CNN.
On Feb. 26, Overland Park Police took a report of a someone drilling into the fuel tanks of trucks at a U-Haul location on 78th Street and Metcalf Avenue.
It is not clear how much gas was stolen or how much damage was caused to the vehicles.
Police in Independence, Missouri, are also investigating two reports from last week in which two parked pickups near 25th Street and Crysler Avenue had their gas tanks drilled into, as well.
AAA says the crime can be expensive one depending on the size of the hole drilled.
If it is small, a mechanic may be able to patch the tank. If not, car owners could face a bill of more than $1,000 to replace the damaged fuel tank.
Several other cities across the country have seen reports of such incidents over the last month.
According to the Los Angeles Times, fuel theft has become particularly troublesome for several cities in California as average gas prices hit an all-time record high of $5.75 a gallon in that state.
In Houston, Texas, thieves reportedly stole around 1,000 gallons of diesel directly from underground fuel tanks at a gas station using a special trapdoor device in the underside of a minivan.
The rise in reported fuel theft comes at a time in which fuel prices are surging to heights not seen in more than a decade.
Sanctions against Russia following its invasion of Ukraine have pushed fuel prices further up, even after they been climbing due, in part, to lower production caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lacy with Overland Park PD said as the gas prices continue to rise, local police could see other similar incidents.
Though the one reported Overland Park incident involved parked U-Haul trucks, he said OPPD still recommends drivers park their personal vehicles in well-lit areas. Homeowners should leave their porch lights on at night if they park their vehicles in their driveways.
If you cannot park inside a garage, Lacy recommends making sure a car alarm is activated while parked outside.
“As always if you see anything suspicious, try to obtain clothing description and direction of travel and always contact your local Police Department,” Lacy said.
How can you tell if you have been a victim of fuel theft?
AAA said those who suspect they have had their car tampered with for fuel should be looking for the following signs:
- A puddle under your vehicle near the fuel tank.
- The smell of gas as you approach your vehicle.
- The vehicle does not start.
- The vehicle starts but the fuel gauge shows gas is low, though you may have filled up recently.