- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 27, 2006

Local police say that rising gas prices have not turned motorists into lawbreakers on a grand scale, but there are reports of drivers filling up and leaving without paying.

“We have noticed a slight increase,” said Officer Beth Fonston, a spokeswoman for the Fairfax County Police Department.

The county police department’s weekly incident report ending April 19 says there were 17 reports of gasoline theft.

Officer Fonston said what could not be determined was whether the number of crimes is increasing or whether gas station attendants were reporting the incidents more frequently since the price of gasoline spiked.

The high number of drive-offs in Fairfax County is unusual for the region, where gas prices averaged $3.03 a gallon yesterday, according to auto club AAA.

One reason might be that most gas station operators in the District don’t give motorists the opportunity to victimize them, said Officer Junis Fletcher, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Police Department.

“This is one good thing for us,” Officer Fletcher said. “I can’t think of any gas stations in the District that aren’t pay before you pump.”

Montgomery County police also said they were not aware of any increase in gasoline thefts.

“Right now we have no proof that is happening, but we are well aware of the issue,” said Cpl. Sonya Pruitt, a Montgomery County Police Department spokeswoman. A Prince George’s County police spokeswoman also said drive-offs were “not a huge problem.”

In fact, police reports from Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, Alexandria and Arlington County indicate that there have been no gas thefts in the past week.

According to broadcast reports yesterday, the owner of a BP station on Russell Street in Baltimore lost about 900 gallons of gas at his station and the owner of another Baltimore station lost more than 2,800 gallons to theft.

The thieves obtained master keys and were able to reprogram the pumps. In one case, witnesses said someone was standing at the altered pump collecting money.

The thefts weren’t uncovered until the owners received their weekly reports.

Baltimore City police say no one has been arrested in either case. It is not known whether the same person or people were involved in both thefts.

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