Cracking Down on Gas Drive-Offs

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As Labor Day weekend approaches, gas station owners are staying vigilant and joining police to crack down on a certain kind o crime we don't often hear of.

It's called a gas drive off. A person drives up to a gas station, gases up, and then drives off with out paying. And people often do it when gas station clerks aren't looking.

Lieutenant Larry Draughon of the Dothan Police Department said, "I wish more store owners and store clerks would put two clerks in there... especially if it's a very busy store. That way you can always have one that is watching while the other is working."

According to police there have been 57 drive-offs reported since January, and 98 reported during the same time-period last year.

But authorities say many more have never been reported, making it difficult to determine just how bad the problem really is.

Gas station owners aren't taking any chances, though.

Many of them are using more security equipment to keep an eye on customers.

Many are also making customers pay for gas before filling up, rather than after.

"Say you want five dollars worth of gas. You come in and give us five dollars and we set your pump up for five dollars, and that's all you get is five dollars," said Julia Luna, a gas station clerk at the Shell gas station on Highway 84 East.

The new tactic appears to be paying off.

Luna said, "I've been here for four months at this Shell gas station and we haven't had any drive-offs in those four months."

And while many gas thieves are still out there, police say there is one thing gas clerks should never do; chase them down.

"You cannot tell what's on a persons mind and it's our job to apprehend people, not the publics. And we don't want anybody to get hurt trying to be a hero for a tank of gas," said Lieutenant Draughon.

Driving off without paying for gas is a class-a misdemeanor, and if a person is caught, they can face fines, silence suspension, and even jail time.

Police say that if you work at a gas station and see someone drive off without paying for gas, write down the individual’s silence plate and call them to file a report.

That number is (334) 615-3000.