Gas theft on rise in NW Arkansas

(April 5, 2004) - (Fayetteville-AP) -- High prices at the pump aren't stopping folks without cash from filling their tanks. Police say gasoline thefts are on the rise, and consumer credit counselors say inflated gas prices are leading to higher balances on credit cards. Credit counselors say people tight budgets who have a long drive to work are most likely to run up their credit cards with gas purchases. The problem is made worse by vehicles that aren't fuel efficient. As for drive-offs, state law allows a suspect to be picked up without a warrant within four hours of the crime. But officials say it is often tough to prosecute offenders. Clerks tend to not know they've been had until the thief is out of sight. But police say that anyone getting a license number, vehicle description or other evidence can help secure a conviction. Officials say profit margins are so thin on gasoline sales that a drive-off or two can wipe out a station's profits for the day.