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Gasoline theft is off the charts as the average price rises to $5.50 a gallon. But in California, $6.50 looks to be the average price of gas. And bordering Cali is Las Vegas, which has become the gas theft epicenter. There is a direct connection between the two. But first, let’s look at how thieves are stealing so much gasoline.

The rise in gas theft and also the amounts stolen are setting crazy records, according to the Las Vegas Police. And thieves are getting better at hiding their methods and also getting more sophisticated. Hundreds of gallons of gas are being stolen at a time from gas stations across all parts of Las Vegas. 

This type of gas theft is done with sophisticated service trucks.

A green gas pump nozzle at a gas station.
Gas pump nozzle | Getty Images

What appears to be large service trucks are plumbed with elaborate pipes and pumping capacities. They can hold those hundreds of gallons with special tanks and cavities in almost every square inch of the truck. It has additional saddle tanks underneath. And one rig recently caught with stolen gas was towing a horse trailer, which was also stuffed with gasoline. 

Thieves will use the truck as a shield, then open up the front of the station pump. Having access to the mechanism, they can manipulate it to get an unlimited flow of gasoline. “They will open up the gas pump itself and there is a series of gears inside there, and they are smart enough to figure out how to manipulate the gears,” said LV Police Lt. Swanbeck to KVVU TV. The thieves can hit numerous locations in one day for a large haul each time. 

Gas theft is happening across the country, not just in Las Vegas

Tanker truck filling up at gas station
Spot a fuel tanker? Move on to the next gas station. | Mark Allen Channel via YouTube

There have been similar reports of gas theft from around the country. However, in-ground tanks are the source, not gas pumps, as in this case. Large trucks with pumping equipment and storage park over the tanks, open them up and start pumping away. 

It seems like a quicker method. But it also seems like it is more conspicuous. Of course, pumping gas out of a gas station pump for a long enough period to get a few hundred gallons seems conspicuous as well. 

Where does California fit in?

When will gas prices go down 2022
Gas prices on May 25, 2022, in Menlo Park, California | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Where California comes into the picture is that there is a huge black market cropping up for stolen gas. They’re able to sell it because, obviously, it goes for a much cheaper price than legit gasoline. Everyone makes a profit, except the target stations and the end-user. 

But just as the thieves are getting more sophisticated, so are the police. The LVMPD Financial Crimes division has stepped up its arrests of these thieves. And they’re advising gas stations and the public on what to look for. “If somebody pays with a $20 gift card and they are out there for an hour and a half pumping gas, that should be suspicious,” says Lt. Swanbeck. “If something looks funny, or if you see anybody open the side of a gas pump, let the clerk know, and let authorities know.”


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