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Wave of gas thefts from autos in Glendale may mark trend, police say

August 02, 2013|By Veronica Rocha

Glendale police fear a spike in fuel thefts last month may signal a growing trend.

Nine gas-siphoning thefts — most of which occurred in South Glendale and most of which involved SUVs — were reported in July. They involved thieves cutting a vehicle's fuel line between the tank and filler neck and then sticking plastic tubing into the fuel line to siphon the fuel out.

In one case, a screw was used to pierce and drain a gas tank. In another case, thieves used a garden hose to siphon gas from a vehicle's tank into a trash can.

The thefts are likely to continue until gas prices begin leveling off, Police Sgt. Tom Lorenz said.

"Unfortunately, there are people out there that can't afford fuel for their vehicles," he added.

The average price of regular unleaded gasoline in the Los Angeles-Long Beach region is currently $4.05 a gallon, down from $4.09 a week ago, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Report. It's also far below the per-gallon average of $4.70 recorded in October.

But pricing isn't the only driver of stolen fuel, which can be resold on the black market.

The siphoning technique has also worried police because of fire hazards and the environmental issues involved with spilled fuel, Lorenz said.

At least two suspect vehicles were seen at the scene of two gas thefts, police said.

Two men in a silver Chrysler minivan with a missing front bumper were seen July 16 in the 500 block of North Kenilworth Avenue, where a gas theft was reported. A blue Ford Aerostar van was seen in the 1200 block of South Cedar Street near where another theft occurred.

The last wave of gasoline thefts in Southern California occurred in 2008, when gas prices hit an all-time high, said Jeffrey Spring, a spokesman for the Automobile Club of Southern California.

Trucks are more susceptible to gas-siphoning thefts because they are high off the ground, he added.

Motorists, he said, should park their autos in garages or well-lighted areas so that their vehicles are "less palatable to thieves."

Locking fuel caps can also discourage thieves, but police said they can be useless if the fuel tank is punctured instead.

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Follow Veronica Rocha on Google+ and on Twitter: @VeronicaRochaLA.

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