Worrying about the safety of your catalytic converter is bad enough, but lately there’s an extra reason to worry about leaving your car unattended: thieves are poking holes in fuel tanks to steal fuel. essence.
Statistics collected by the Bakersfield Police Department show a 187% year-over-year increase in the number of gasoline thefts in the city from January to June, to 43 reported incidents, roughly coinciding with soaring fuel prices.
While by no means a new crime, the wave has caught the attention of auto mechanics who see the frustration of vehicle owners when they realize someone has stolen their gas and left behind them an expensive repair or replacement job.
“It’s a nightmare,” said Rob Northam, who as owner-manager of Eye Street Automotive in Bakersfield has worked on six punctured fuel tanks over the past three weeks. “It’s getting worse.”
A local company that delivers auto parts recently had metal shields installed to protect the plastic fuel tanks of its fleet of trucks. The thieves had gone from truck to truck to get fuel.
Now the parts company is parking its trucks closer together, side by side, to make them less accessible to thieves, said the manager of the company’s office that protects the tanks, Tec Repair Services.
“You often see it with, for example, places with fleets that don’t have a yard to put them in at night,” added Alison Blake-Lobb.
Parking vehicles next to each other like this isn’t a bad idea because thieves usually gain access through the side of a vehicle, said store manager Kenny Morales at Darrell’s Automotive Repair. It’s not a perfect solution, however.
“The thief will get there no matter what,” he said.
It’s less common these days to hear of fuel thieves siphoning gasoline with a hose. It leaves fingerprints, Morales said. He added that automakers largely switched in the 1960s to plastic tanks from metal, which are harder to puncture or puncture.
Sometimes fuel tanks can be repaired. Otherwise, local mechanics say, replacing one can cost between $200 and $800.
“Some of these cars, you can’t even get the gas tanks anymore,” Northam said.
Jim Burke Ford Lincoln has one or two cases in its service bays on Oak Street, Chairman Joe Hay said by email. Recently, there was a Lincoln Navigator with a punctured tank that came to the dealership’s Automall store, he noted.
“My view would be that it happened, but rarely,” Hay wrote.
The BPD’s records may be a little surprising: not only does gasoline theft occur dozens of times a year in Bakersfield, but it hasn’t happened as frequently in seven years as it did in the past six. first months of 2022.
Over the past year, the crime has been reported 38 times in the city. Already this year, 43 reports have been reported. That’s still 12 shy of Bakersfield’s 20-year high – 54 in the first half of 2015, according to the BPD.
As Northam said, “It’s getting worse now, but it’s happening.”
Most of the time, the insurance pays, he says.
But the frustration is not covered. He said vehicle owners usually don’t know they’ve been victimized until the next morning when they get into a car or truck that wasn’t empty the night before.