As of this week, the U.S. national average gas price is sitting at just under $US5.00 ($7) per 3 litres. While 10 states are reporting average prices above $US5.00 ($7), the highest prices are out west, mainly in states like Califonia which sits at an “I don’t think I like driving anymore” average price of $US6.40 ($9). Nevada is not far behind at $US5.58 ($8). It’s gotten so bad that local news outlets are reporting on thieves using modified trucks to steal hundreds of gallons of gasoline from gas stations, creating a black market that goes across state lines.
The main hotspot for this new form of crime is Las Vegas. Vegas PD has reported a record number of gas thefts across the city. The grift relies on heavily modified trucks modified to secretly hold hundreds of gallons of fuel. Lt. Swanbeck with the LVPD described one, saying the thieves will “take a truck that looks just like a normal truck, like a freeway service truck, and there is intricate pipping inside them.”
It’s not just a simple matter of hooking the pump up to the truck as you would when getting gas normally. There’s some engineering know-how behind this. “They will open up the gas pump itself and there is a series of gears inside there, and they are smart enough to figure out how to manipulate the gears,” Lt. Swanbeck explained to local news station KVVU.
Police say thieves will sometimes hit the same station multiple times in a day, stealing thousands of litres of fuel.
The next part of all this is the California black market. One truck, towing a horse trailer modified to smuggle gasoline, was recently stopped by Nevada authorities full of fuel on its way to California. Thieves come to the Golden State to sell the stolen gas, undercutting local prices and making a nice profit.
LVMPD Financial Crimes Section has made gains in arresting these gas thieves across the Las Vegas area. They’re also asking for help in keeping a lookout for those that could be stealing. As Swanbeck told local news station ABC7, “If somebody pays with a $US20 ($28) gift card and they are out there for an hour and a half pumping gas, that should be suspicious. If something looks funny or if you see anybody open the side of a gas pump, let the clerk know, let authorities know.”