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Gas Drive-Offs Rise With Increasing Gas Prices
The cost to fill up the gas tank is leaving the wallets of many drivers in central Illinois on empty.
Police say while the price at the pump increases, so does the number of people who gas and dash.
Ask any driver about the price to fill up, and you'll get an earful.
"They're ridiculous," said Dan Dhabalt. "Can't believe they just continue to go up."
"I think somebody ought to do something about it," said driver Ronald Austin.
For one local business owner, gassing up is draining his bottom line.
"It's being added on to my customers," Dhabalt said. "It's got a trickle down effect."
Rising numbers here are limiting the miles one Texas driver is adding to his odometer.
"The farther north I go, the higher they are," Austin said.
The average price of gas is $3.91 a gallon in Illinois.
That's the 13th highest cost in the country, according to www.gasbuddy.com.
"Usually our numbers go up when gas goes up," said Springfield Deputy Chief of Police Cliff Buscher. "If the price of gas gets high, drive-offs go up."
Gas stations in Springfield have reported 425 drive-offs this year.
"They'll call us if they've got the plate number and description," Buscher said. "If they don't have that, they have a vehicle and driver, we try to track down."
Employees at the Qik-n-EZ on Toronto Road use binoculars to watch 27 pumps.
"That's our first sign of defense is making sure we're keeping an eye on who's out there and what's going on," said Wally Cook, general manager of the store.
But, Cook admits workers don't notice most thefts until the driver is out of sight.
"It becomes expensive not just for the loss of fuel, but we have to get the police department involved," Cook said. "They have to investigate."
In the meantime, law-abiding drivers continue to get creative to prevent their tanks and wallets from running on "E."
"You see what I'm driving?" Austin asked. "A little pickup truck for better gas mileage."
Springfield Police say drive-offs happen most often at gas stations open 24 hours.
The most common time for the theft is during morning and evening rush hour, when stations are the busiest.