Drive up. Fill up. Take off  With each spike in gas prices, more and more motorists are becoming criminals.

"Gas thefts have never been a bigger problem for our industry," says lobbyist Ron Leone, who represents most of the gas stations and convenience stores in Missouri. His operators are watching a kind of a crime wave at their gas pumps. He doesn’t call these incidents "drive-aways" any more.

Leone says Missouri has one of the toughest gas-theft laws in the country. But he says police forces stretched thin by other crimes sometimes can’t spend much time finding somebody who steals gas.

He says his people typically made pennies on the gallon and one stolen tankful really hurts the station operators. Leone says, "Everybody pays for gas thefts even though they think they don’t" because station operators have to make up for their losses by charging higher pump prices.

That’s why more of our gas stations demand customers pay before they pump–which Leone says does two bad things—it forces use of credit cards with merchant fees that eat into station profits, and it decreases in-store traffic which cuts sale of items that help store profits.


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