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Thieves cut lines to steal gasoline

Gas is expensive – and more tempting to thieves, apparently.

Authorities this month have seen a flurry of gas thefts.

On Monday, a woman reported gas was siphoned from her car and the gas cap stolen while she was parked outside a store on Westinghouse Boulevard.

Cut fuel lines on county vehicles turned up twice recently at the Mecklenburg Department of Social Services on Billingsley Road. Five cars or trucks were hit June 7, and another six with cut fuel lines were discovered June 11.

Also on June 11, police received a report of a cut fuel line on a vehicle parked at a realty company on Greenwich Road, not far from Billingsley.

An employee at the business, who asked not to be named, said it has happened four times since early May. The target is a truck that the company uses for clients.

“With gas approaching $5 a gallon, it's a different way of life,” said Leon Miller, the county's director of general services. “People are going to start looking for ways to get it.”

Police were unable to provide statistics on gas thefts Tuesday. Sgt. Rich Stahnke said while the thefts aren't pervasive, officers are watching for increases as gas prices climb.

“Anytime you have something of value, people will start targeting it for theft,” he said.

Police have seen similar trends involving thefts of copper wire from air conditioning units and construction sites. And recently, thieves have targeted catalytic converters on cars, which contain platinum they can sell.

Miller, whose department maintains county vehicles, said Tuesday that he has alerted departments to keep a closer eye on the fleet.

He's asking security and police to monitor parking lots.

Cutting fuel lines might seem like an extreme move to get to gas, but Miller remembers the 1970s gas crisis, when many car owners suddenly had to buy locking gas caps. Today, secure gas caps are routinely included on cars.

“If their (plan) had been before to take a siphon and now all the caps are locked, they're probably going to be motivated to find out which line to cut and where it is.”

At the Greenwich Road realty company, workers plan to install a metal sheet over the fuel line and no longer fill the tank until the truck is needed.

They've put a sign on the truck to let thieves know: “This truck remains on empty.”

Victoria Cherrie contributed.

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