Springfield Police receive reports of thieves drilling into car fuel tanks and stealing gas

Published: Mar. 16, 2022 at 9:47 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Gas prices are draining many wallets these days, and thieves are also draining gas from cars across town.

The Springfield Police Department says it is getting a few reports of gas theft. The department says a couple of car owners reported thieves had physically drained gasoline from the tank of their cars this week. Police say crooks are drilling holes into the tank underneath cars.

Tim Fess is the General Manager at Rick’s Automotive off of Campbell. He said many cars have fuel tanks that are made of a plastic material, others have metal tanks.

“It [plastic] is very easy to drill through with a sharp drill bit with a cordless drill,” he said.

While we don’t see the bottom of a car very often when we’re out and about, that’s exactly where thieves are crawling down to.

”With the catalytic converter thefts we’ve all seen, it’s actually quite easy to just lay on your back and literally drill a small hole and get a few gallons of fuel or even empty the tank if they’d like,” Fess said.

That is exactly what the gas thieves seem to be doing.

“It destroys the fuel tank,” Fess said. “The plastic doesn’t lend itself to be repaired. It’s designed to be a disposable component. Metal fuel tanks are much harder to drill into, and as a result we don’t see a lot of that. However, metal tanks are seen in a lot of older vehicles.”

He said the replacement of a fuel tank can be very expensive, ranging from a few hundred dollars to a couple thousand, depending on the car model. Part shortages can also make it challenging to replace in timely fashion.

High gas prices could potentially make the underneath of a car more vulnerable these days, Fess said.

“With the recent uptick in fuel prices, I do believe in summer coming around it’s going to be more prevalent,” Fess said. “I hope not, but unfortunately the law of averages dictates it will be.”

Rick’s Automotive says a few local nonprofits have been hit repeatedly.

“That’s very difficult for a non-for-profit to absorb,” Fess said.

Springfield Police say there are a few things you can do to try and prevent these types of thefts.

“When you’re at home, the best place to park your vehicle is in a garage,” Springfield Police Department Public Information Officer Cris Swaters said. “If that’s not an option for you, park in the driveway but park as close to your home as possible and make sure your driveway is well lit. If you’ve got your lights on a motion sensor, that’s great too. When you’re in public, park in a well lit, high traffic area. If you’re in a parking garage, park near an entrance or an exit near a stairwell. Those are all high traffic areas that are typically very well lit.”

Swaters said home security cameras can also be very helpful.

”It helps solve crimes not just that happen to you, but might happen to your neighbors or in your neighborhood,” she said. “Those things can help us if we’re looking for a specific car, a specific person that’s driven or walked past. If we know that you have a Ring camera, or security footage, that can help us find a person or a vehicle.”

And when it comes to siphoning fuel, auto shops say a cap with a lock is not always the solution.

”In today’s vehicles, it can turn on or set a check engine light or a code in the computer as a result of using an improperly fitting locking fuel cap,” Fess said.

Shops say to always use a factory type fuel cap that is made for your car. Rick’s Automotive says it has seen a drastic decline in catalytic converter replacements ever since that major bust several months ago.

Springfield Police are still investigating these fuel thefts and do not have any suspects yet. If you have any information, you are asked to call. The department said that each of the thefts happened at night time.

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