East Texas Gas Stations Bucking National Trend - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

4/15/04

East Texas Gas Stations Bucking National Trend

It's a national trend. As gas prices rise, so does gas theft. But East Texas seems to be bucking that trend. The gas station holds the key. After all, we've all seen the stickers, they are on every gas pump. If you get caught driving off from a gas pump without paying, you could lose your license. So why do some gas stations see an increasing number of drive offs, while others, don't have a problem? For the Craft Corner Chevron in Flint, a set of binoculars and a little detective work can make all the difference. Binoculars and a notepad help keep a close eye on license plates, and who is paying at the pumps. The Flint gas station has built a reputation of sorts for their eagle eyes. A reputation that owners Mike and Carla Bacica say has been effective.

"I think it's been very effective," said Carla Bacica.  "We have very few drive-offs a month. Probably six or seven has been the most in any one month. We've talked to other stores, other store owners in the area, and sometimes they have two and three a day."

"Sometimes, where a station would lose $10 a day, now they'll lose $50," said Smith County Precint 2 Constable Frank Creath.

He says rising prices, mean rising loss claims for gas stations. He also says he has seen an increase in drive offs. But, only at stations that don't have pre-pay pumps, and don't make the effort to monitor them.

"The drive-offs can be controlled by the stations themselves," said Creath, "and the actions that they take, and being pro-active is certainly a way to do it."

While pre-pay pumps are a logical solution, they are not a popular one. That's why Creath says surveillance cameras or a watchfull eye and notepad can make all the difference.

"People know where to go, that they're not going to get caught," said Creath.

The pro-active measures by area gas stations have helped keep driv-offs a minor problem here.   The Tyler Police Department says gas drive-offs decreased slightly for the month of March this year compared to last. The Smith County Sheriff's Department says they have seen a similar trend.

Kevin Berns reporting.
kberns@kltv.com

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