Stations Putting The Brakes On Drive Offs

Gas station owners are trying to put the brakes on gas drive offs. As prices have gone up, so have the number of drive off thefts.

Fayard's BP manager Kim Hillman says they use to average two gas drive offs a week. She says its hard to catch people who leave without paying, especially if you don't know they're gone.

"When you hang the pump up, there's a beep that goes off to let you know it's done pumping and somebody just laid the nozzle down on the ground and drove off," says Hillman. "So we didn't know to even look out there and see if they were still there."

After that incident, the store's owners decided they'd had enough.

"We put signs up and everything is prepay now," says Hillman. "You have to pay for your gas before you get it. Some people get real upset, but we can't afford to pay for the gas out of our pocket and that's what happens."

Fayard's BP in Gautier isn't the only station that's gone strictly pre-pay. Out of 15 other stations throughout Jackson County, only one didn't require its customers to come in and pay before they pump.

"The Dodge brothers feel that when you make people prepay, you're calling everybody a thief, that they're going to drive off with your gas," says Shelley Shumock, Manager of the Dodge Store in Gautier.

Sometimes they do. Each month the Dodge Store in Gautier has its share of drive offs. But with the help of a new camera surveillance system, they're cracking down on people who gas and go.

"We've been able to actually catch a few people in the last couple of months that we've prosecuted for driving off with gas," says Shumock. "These cameras are actually where they can view and zoom in on a tag number."

Shumock says they can't catch everyone who drives off without paying, so the company still feels the loss. She expects the number of drive offs won't drop until prices do.

Leaving without paying for gas is considered petty larceny, which means people trying to get free gas could end up paying several hundred dollars in fines. They could also lose their driver's license for up to six months.