Florida law enforcement agencies are on high alert following the attempted theft of gasoline at a Tampa BP station as well as a theft in Riverview on Feb. 7, according to ABC News.
Thieves stole 239 gallons of diesel fuel Feb. 7 from a Hess Gas station in Riverview, and a similar alleged theft occurred Dec. 27 in Gibsonton, the news station reports. The Gibsonton suspect struck a clerk with his vehicle when he was confronted, authorities said.
On Tuesday, a Hillsborough County sheriff's deputy spotted a minivan parked over the in-ground fuel tanks at the BP station. The sheriff's office later discovered , Westchase Patch reports. The suspects escaped in a getaway car, leaving several hundred gallons of gas still inside the van and about 20 gallons spilled in the parking lot.
Larry McKinnon, spokesman for the sheriff’s office, told ABC he has seen about a dozen gas thefts a year, concentrated when gas prices increase.
“It kind of ebbs and flows,” McKinnon told the station. “It will taper off for a while, and, you can bet your dollar, as the prices go up, we’ve told our patrol deputies to be on alert.”
The national average for regular gas is $3.59 a gallon, up 40 cents from a year ago and 7 cents from last week, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration statistics cited by ABC. The average is higher for the lower Atlantic region, at $3.63, the station says, which is why law enforcement said there is a growing profit margin in the black market for gas.
McKinnon told ABC consumers might ultimately have to pay higher gas prices to manage the cost of cleanup, inspections and lost gas.