With the increase in gas prices, some areas of the country have experienced a rise in gasoline thefts. The North Central West Virginia area hasn't, according to state and local police officials.
A newly enacted state law proposed by the West Virginia Oil Marketers and Grocers Association could be the reason there hasn't been an increase in drive offs, said Janet Vineyard, executive director.
The law was put into effect in June 2000 to take stronger action against drivers who decide to skip out on paying for fuel, she said.
For those motorists who refuse to pay, the law comes with a price.
The first offense is a misdemeanor, and the offender must pay a fine, according to West Virginia State Code.
Drivers lose their licenses for six months on a second offense. For a third, the person's license is suspended for one year.
Vineyard said the pump stickers that read: "Pay For Your Gas Or Lose Your Driver's License" came into effect shortly afterwards. A West Virginia state trooper is shown on the stickers, which are posted on pumps throughout the state.
"The stickers on the pumps act as a reminder," she said.
Buckhannon Police Department Lt. Darrell Bennett agrees that the law may have held down gas theft. The area he patrols hasn't seen an increase in gas theft, Bennett said.
There have been more in Weston this year than last, West Police Officer David Curtis said. But gasoline thefts still have been a rare occurrence, he said.
And the thieves often are caught, Curtis said. "Over 50 percent of the time we catch them," he said.
Curtis said that many times police are not notified about gasoline theft.
"It's easier for them to write it off," he said.
Clarksburg Police Chief John Walker said Harrison County averages a couple gasoline thefts a week. But there hasn't been a significant increase, he said.
"We're pretty fortunate," he said.
Bob Rokisky owns Rokisky's Exxon of Clarksburg. He said he hasn't had to worry about gasoline theft.
"We have a full service island with an attendant outside," he said. "That acts as a deterrent."
"It's a problem in some places," he said.
His customers who have driven off usually have simply forgotten to pay, Rokisky said.
Harrison County Magistrate Mark Gorby said few people have been prosecuted on charges of stealing gas.
"I don't think we've seen a rise in them," he said.
When a gasoline theft occurs, Curtis says clerks or patrons should get the license plate number as well as a description of the car and the driver to give police.
Staff writer Kelly Rohrbough can be reached at 626-1403 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.