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St. Albert police push for pre-paid gas

73 gas-and-dashes reported so far this year

By: Amy Crofts

  |  Posted: Saturday, Dec 21, 2013 06:00 am

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RCMP are making the prevention of gas-and-dash thefts a priority in 2014.

Sgt. Carolyn Cameron, operations support with St. Albert RCMP, said they are going to curb the number of fuel thefts from service stations – 73 have been reported this year – using a two-pronged approach.

The first strategy will be education, but they would ultimately like to see customers have to pre-pay for their gas.

“There have been two files in the last month where a gas attendant has gotten frustrated and has attempted to stop the (gas-and-dasher),” said Cameron.

Prior to working in St. Albert, Cameron was based in B.C. She reflected on the death of 24-year-old Grant De Patie, a gas attendant who was working the graveyard shift at an Esso station in Maple Ridge in 2005, when he was hit by a stolen car.

De Patie was dragged more than 7.5 kilometres underneath the car. The driver had stolen $12.30 worth of gas.

Similarly in May 2011, Hashem Atifeh Rad, 62, was hit and dragged by a vehicle after trying to stop the driver who had made off with $75 in gas from a Petro-Canada station in Mississauga, Ont.

“People are getting frustrated and they want to take the law into their own hands,” noted Cameron.

“We don't need that. We don't need another death. At the end of the day, it is just gas.”

Gas-and-dashes hit a high in St. Albert in 2011 with 126 reported thefts. They dropped to 101 the next year.

Fuel thefts typically rise when gas prices spike.

Cameron said the RCMP have better things to do than become gas-and-dash debt collectors, which is why they plan on educating service station owners and workers starting in the new year.

Of the 161 gas-and-dash thefts investigated from Jan. 1, 2012 to Aug. 31, 2013, around 71 per cent were reported within 15 minutes of occurrence. Licence plate numbers were obtained in 72 per cent of those cases.

RCMP want to keep seeing that type of response, while also increasing the training workers have for using video surveillance.

Of the 161 files, only in 38 per cent of the cases was video surveillance available.

Cameron explained gas station attendants can get additional training on how to use the PA system when a gas-and-dash theft is suspected.

Staff can also look out for suspicious activity including covered or distorted licence plates or vehicles that have the driver's side door left open as the driver fuels up.

RCMP want to make St. Albert a harder target for preventable crime.

“We want to say, 'If you're looking, don't come to St. Albert!'” remarked Cameron.

The ultimate goal, she added, is to make pre-paying for gas mandatory in the province. Pre-pay legislation was passed in B.C. in 2008 following De Patie's death.

When the Alberta Association of Police Chiefs called for pay-then-pump legislation in 2011, it was met by pushback. Large gas stations stated it would be an inconvenience to customers and some critics suggested it could result in an increase in credit card skimming.

Although some independent service stations have expressed their interest, Cameron noted that if mom-and-pop shops chose to convert to pre-paid gas pumps, the cost could put them out of business.

For gas station owners and operators that would like more information on how to prevent gas-and-dashes, contact Sgt. Carolyn Cameron at carolyn.cameron@rcmp-grc.gc.ca or 780-418-6661.


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