Gas pumps around our region, including those in Lowndes County, are taking more out of drivers’ wallets than they did just a year ago.
A growing number of drivers simply can't afford the prices and are electing to steal the gas.
"People are blatant about it,” said Ashley Paulk, Lowndes County Sheriff. "There was one yesterday where a person pulled into a gas station and while he was filling up, took his tag off, put it on the front seat and drove off. Fortunately, the store gave us a good description."
Deputies were able to track down the suspect and charge him with theft, but sometimes local deputies and police officers are not so lucky, especially with Interstate 75 providing a quick escape.
The Cactus Mart on North Valdosta Road is one of many gas stations in our region dealing with a growing number of gas drive-offs. It's a financial burden that's becoming difficult for local station owners to overcome.
"It really hurts us," said Ana Makada, the store owner, "because to pay off $12, $20, $40, we have to sell several thousand gallons worth of gas in order to compensate for the loss, so it’s real hard sometimes to make it."
The only option for many gas station managers is to require pre-paid cash purchases.
"That's probably the best way to eliminate the problem," said Sheriff Paulk.
Local authorities say they will continue to track down as many gas thieves as possible. Authorities say tracking down gas thieves is good business because they often are wanted for other crimes as well.