By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
As gasoline prices continue to rise this summer, more and more Wyoming police departments are getting concerned about the possibility of fuel thefts.
Washakie County Sheriff’s Captain Richard Fernandez told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday that there has been one recent fuel theft, which makes him think this is a sign of more to come.
“I think the person who stole the fuel in this particular incident didn’t think anyone would be around and it was a crime of opportunity,” he said. “The area the gas was stolen from is technically private, but it’s sometimes used for public access.”
As of Tuesday, Wyoming’s average gas price was $4.80. The highest gasoline price in Wyoming on Tuesday was in Jackson at $5.68 per gallon. The lowest price, $4.24 per gallon, was found at Laramie’s Tumbleweed Express.
The county with the highest price in the state was Platte at $5.20, while the lowest average was found in Natrona County at $4.53.
Fernandez said he wants local farmers and ranchers to be prepared for the threat of gas theft, a sentiment echoed by Deputy Jason Mower of the Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office.
“We’ve not yet experienced an increase in fuel thefts here in Sweetwater County, but we anticipate that may change quickly, particularly with diesel fuel,” Mower said on Wednesday. “As demand increases over the summer driving season amid deteriorating market conditions plagued by rising prices at the pump, supply shortages, and the uncertainty surrounding different events going on around the world, we think it is very possible this could increase.”
Campbell County Lt. Paul Pownall said while fuel theft is not uncommon to see in the area whether prices are high or low, there has been an increase in the crime this year.
“We’ve seen it particularly with diesel,” Pownall said on Wednesday. “We’ve had some of our county vehicles targeted, ones that maintain roads. They’re out in the county and left unattended at night and there’s an opportunity.”
He urged people to be vigilant and keep an eye on their fuel gauge. He noted that a lock for a gas tank is relatively cheap and would keep someone from siphoning gas out of a vehicle.
Nationally, the crime of gasoline theft is on the rise.
This week, two Florida men were arrested for stealing a semi-truck and selling fuel out of it.
A suspected gas thief in Utah was captured on surveillance video catching himself on fire after allegedly using a drill in an attempt to siphon gas from a truck, according to Newsweek.
In Virginia Beach, two men were charged with grand larceny, conspiracy, and possession of burglary tool, accused of stealing thousands of dollars’ in fuel this week from a closed Citgo station, according to Business Insider.
The Natrona and Laramie County sheriff’s departments did not return Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment on Wednesday.