Drive-offs climb with gas prices

November 16, 2007|By ERIN JULIUS

WASHINGTON COUNTY ? When gas prices spike, more people try to get away with driving off before they pay for their gas, a Sheetz spokeswoman said Friday.

Officers with the Hagerstown Police Department have seen an increase in the number of gas drive-offs ? drivers who pump and drive away without paying ? in the past two months, Sgt. Michael Moats said.

"It's always been a problem because they let them pump it before they pay for it," said Lt. Tim Baker of the Washington County Sheriff's Department.

Some area stations have switched to a prepay system to prevent drive-offs.

The Shell station on Washington Avenue switched to a prepay system "a good while" ago and hasn't had problems with drive-offs, station attendant Dusty Shatzer said.


In certain areas of the region, Sheetz also has moved to a prepay system, but that is used as a last resort, Sheetz spokeswoman Monica Jones said.

"We hate to punish the honest customers we have for the sins of the few," she said.

To cut down on drive-offs, Sheetz encourages its employees to be on high alert when authorizing customers to use a pump, Jones said.

Sheetz stores also have 24-hour surveillance, she said.

At stations with a large number of drive-offs, Sheetz sometimes puts extra security on the lot, Jones said.

Police "seldom" catch the people responsible for drive-offs, Baker said. Even if gas station employees get the tag number of a drive-off, sometimes it is a bad tag or a stolen tag, he said.

Moats, of the Hagerstown Police Department, said officers do follow up when gas station attendants call in about drive-offs. Police run tag numbers and attempt to find the driver. Misdemeanor theft charges apply to drive-offs, he said.

"We will bring charges against them," he said.

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