Gas thefts are on the rise in some Prince Edward Island communities, the RCMP says.
Incidents are up nearly 40 per cent compared to the same time last year, Cpl. Gavin Moore said Wednesday. In the last 30 days, nearly 40 thefts have been reported.
"That is significant," Moore said. "It does take police resources to follow up on these types of incidents."
The thefts are happening more often at certain gas stations, but Moore said it's still an "Island-wide" problem. He said it's important gas station owners train their employees on how to react in such situations.
"We don't want to see any incidents where somebody gets hurt."
'Sometimes they do forget'
Police investigate each case by looking at security footage and gathering information about the vehicle, Moore said. Officers then try to figure out whether it was intentional or an accident.
RCMP Cpl. Gavin Moore says gas thefts tie up police officers who could be responding to other incidents. (Tony Davis/CBC)
About 50 per cent of the time, it's resolved by the person coming back to pay, Moore said.
He said police lay charges on a case-by-case basis, based on the judgment of investigators.
At Cooper's Red & White, a gas station and food market in Belfast, so-called gas-and-dash situations don't happen often, but the owner says people occasionally do drive off.
"Sometimes they do forget and they do talk a little bit and just forget about paying," said Bobby Cooper. "It hurts small business owners like us to recoup that money back."
Other gas station staff CBC News spoke with said they frequently have people fill up and drive away without paying — and that it's happening more often.
Pay before you pump?
Alberta and B.C. have "pay-before-you-pump" legislation, meaning drivers must pay for their fuel before they can pump it.
If P.E.I. had a similar policy, the 40 thefts reported recently probably wouldn't have happened in the first place, Moore said.
"Each one of these complaints does take a police officer away from dealing with other incidents and other issues in communities," he said.
Bobby Cooper, owner of Cooper's Red & White, says he doesn’t want to see pay-before-you-pump legislation in P.E.I. (Tony Davis/CBC)
Some stations have upgraded their pumps to allow customers to prepay. But Cooper said he doesn't want to see pay-before-you-pump legislation on P.E.I. because it can mean expensive upgrades.
"We do not offer pay at the pump because, as a small business, we actually want people to come in and see what else we have to offer for them," he said. "If we do have the pay at the pump, which is $20,000 plus, it's too much for a small business owner."
Some gas station owners told CBC News they think people are more distracted these days and don't realize payments haven't gone through.
In Charlottetown, city police said they aren't seeing a big increase in gas-and-dashes.
Meanwhile, the province said there has been no formal request for pay-before-you-pump legislation on the Island.