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As the price of gas rises once again across the region, some thieves have begun to take a new and unusual approach to stealing fuel from cars.
The crimes began late in December in Takoma Park, Md. That's when a handful of car owners in and around the 7400 block of New Hampshire Ave discovered their gas tanks were near empty and leaking, police say. How the gas tanks ended up that way points to a new and disturbing trend in fuel theft.
"Some thieves are using a drill to drill a hole into the gas tank, and in some cases they taking a hammer and a nail and puncturing the gas tank and draining the gas," AAA Mid-Atlantic's John Townsend explains.
Police say similar incidents are cropping up around Maryland, particularly in Annapolis where a taxi, under repair at a gas station, was drilled and drained last week. It was the same for a car dealership in that city where the tanks of 12 SUVs were emptied.
Townsend says while this tends to happen when gas prices spike, thieves have upgraded their tactics.
"They used to use a siphon hose or an old rubber hose to take gas out of cars," he says. "But that's harder to do these days because some vehicles come with a block, or some are fitted with a screen which makes it virtually impossible to siphon gas out of it."
Siphoning gas is also dangerous, "because you can cause a spark, and an explosion in the hopes of getting $3.48 per gallon gas," Townsend adds.
To avoid becoming a victim of this crime, police and AAA recommend you park overnight in a garage if possible, or under a light, and report any suspicious activity.