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Gas siphoning a growing problem for IE businesses

April 26, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Colton-based contractor Mark Moss is finding it tougher to keep his equipment fueled.

In recent weeks, Moss has been hit four times by thieves who have emptied his tanks of its diesel.

With gas prices topping $4 per gallon across Southern California, crooks are bypassing the pump and siphoning it from easy targets like Moss' construction sites where his equipment is parked overnight.

"You show up the next morning to go to work and you find out nothing has fuel," Moss said. "You have to schedule fuel trucks to come in. You have everybody standing around getting paid."

Moss estimates the thefts have cost him between $8,000 and $9,000 in lost fuel.

"It seems like since fuel has spiked, we've had several jobs where somebody comes in and steals 1,800 to 2,000 gallons of fuel at one time," Moss said.

Gas expert Patrick DeHaan of GasBuddy.com says the thefts are part of a national trend.

"As it is, many commodities, not just oil - copper and many others - have a higher value than they did just a year ago so it becomes an increasing target of theft," he said.

Truck stops are also another popular destination for thieves.

Long haul driver Candice Smith says her tank was siphoned in 2008 when gas prices were at an all-time high.

"They're hurting everyone because when our prices go up, then the cost of food goes up. We haul mostly food products," Smith said.

The crime, which takes only minutes to commit, has a lasting effect on small businesses.

For Moss, the economy has already taken its toll on construction. Now it's gas thieves that are putting another dent in his bottom line.

"We're already working on such small profit margins that it basically takes out all the money on the job," he said.