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Gas thieves getting creative



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Courtney Orton reporting Cars have long been a target for smash-and-grab thieves looking for audio equipment or valuables left in view on the seat. Now thieves are going after a car's gas, and they're getting creative.

Maaco body shop owner Steve Long sees a lot of automobiles with smashed windshields and broken fenders, but he anticipates he might start seeing cars with punctured gas tanks -- holes drilled by thieves thirsty for the $4-a-gallon gas inside.

Long says, "When you drill into a gas tank, it causes heat, friction, sparks maybe; and it can do a lot more damage than just the gasoline in your tank."

A tank of gas worth $50 to $60 ends up costing the vehicle's owner thousands. "Replacing your gas tank will probably run you $1,000 in your average vehicle," he says.

That's not to mention the other parts that could end up damaged. Long says, "The gas tanks have the fuel pump in them, there's the fuel sensor."

Trucks and SUVs are the most vulnerable to thieves because the tanks are easier to get to."

Detective Jeff Bedard, with the Salt Lake City Police Department, said, "There are certain people who before may not have considered committing a crime to obtain it that now become more lucrative or necessary in their mind."

Gas station drive-offs and dangerous siphoning are far more common methods of stealing gas.

Barbara Insley Crouch, with the Utah Poison Control Center, told us, "To date, this year, compared to the same time period last year, it looks like we've had a 50-percent increase in the number of reports of siphoning."

Crouch says that number hasn't gone up just because of thieves. But fears over gas siphoning have many people turning to locking gas caps. The caps go on like your regular one, except you use a key to unlock it. Of course, locking gas caps will not protect your tank from thieves. Instead, experts say get a skid plate put under your car to make it harder for thieves to access the tank.

E-mail: corton@ksl.com

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