PHOENIX — Soaring gas prices have fueled an increase in gas thefts across the nation and reports of gas being stolen out of Arizonan’s vehicles are surging.
“I was just innocently going about my day, with no worries that it would happen to me,” said Kim Wolfe.
Wolfe is a home speech-language pathologist and her work requires her to travel across the Valley daily.
Before heading to her first visit on Thursday, she stopped at Costco near Priest and Elliot roads to fuel up, followed by a quick stop at the Walmart store across the street.
When back on the road she noticed something.
“My gas mileage, it said 86 miles, instead of on a full tank, it would say 400 miles,” she said.
Wolfe initially thought her gauge had malfunctioned, so she pulled over to inspect her gas tank. It was open. Her gas had been siphoned.
“I feel like someone saw that I had filled up and took the chance to get a lot of gas rather than taking a chance on a car that might have not had any,” Wolfe said, thinking she was followed after tanking up.
Wolfe’s car has a lock for the gas tank door. She believes thieves used a tool to open it.
Her car wasn’t damaged, but that was not the case for HALO Animal Rescue.
In less than two weeks, the HALO claims it has been targeted and its vans damaged.
The rescue’s staff noticed one of their vehicles had three holes drilled into its gas tank as they were about to drive to Mexico to pick up 35 dogs HALO was hoping to find homes for in the Valley.
“Just on the 22nd we had someone come and siphoned gas,” said Heather Allen, president, and CEO of the non-profit. “At least that time they were nice enough to only detach the hose from the tank, but it still left the tank unusable.”
The rescues surveillance cameras caught a suspect going under one of the vans around 7:30 p.m. that day. But the video is not clear enough to make out the face of the suspect.
“We know that everyone is overwhelmed with the rising cost of fuel and can sympathize with someone’s feeling of desperation, we just wish they wouldn’t harm others, and in our case, homeless pets and the people who care for them, to get their needs met," Allen said.
HALO must spend at least $2,500 to repair the van and is asking for donations to help cover the expenses. Information on how to donate can be found here.
Prescott native Misty Wood was another victim of gas targeting on Thursday.
“Basically, I’m paying for what they stole, and it sucks,” said Wood. “It’s very sad, very frustrating.”
“It just makes me sad that people have resorted to this,” she added. “I know things are bad for all of us right now, but man, this is not right.”
Police suggest the following to protect yourself from falling victim to gas thieves.
• Purchase a gas cap lock
• Park in your garage, or a well-lit and high traveled area
• If there are surveillance cameras around, park so your gas tank faced them