Drills replace hoses as fuel thieves adopt intrusive approach to vehicle gas tanks

Unsuspecting vehicle owners in the Calgary-area have found themselves with empty tanks and facing costly repair bills after thieves helped themselves to fuel from parked vehicles in an unconventional manner.

There have been at least 10 gas tank drilling incidents in the last year and Calgary Police Service officials confirm the most recent report of drilling into a gas tank occurred on April 26 at a location in northwest Calgary.

Instead of siphoning gas from a tank with a hose, thieves have been drilling holes into the bottom of plastic gas tanks and collecting the contents. Vehicles with higher clearance, including vans and trucks, have been the target of recent fuel thefts.   

The damage to the tank following a fuel theft involving a drill is irreparable and requires a complete replacement of the fuel tank. The replacement normally costs between $1,500 and $2,500.

“First and foremost, the cost of getting them to tow it here,” said Scott Brockway of Glen Meadows Auto Service. “After that is dropping the tank. Then the decision for the customer is whether they want a used tank or a new tank and then if there’s anything else that’s been damaged. We have to inspect the vehicle as well.”

As of Wednesday, the average gas price in Calgary was $1.26 per litre, an increase of nearly 27 cents per litre compared to May of 2017.

The higher price at the pump has coincided with an increase in the number of ‘gas-and-dashes’, the fueling of a vehicle without payment, reported in Calgary. According to the Calgary Police Service, there were 291 incidents in the first quarter of 2018, a 21 per cent increase over the same time period in 2017 (241 reported incidents) .

Gas-and-dashes are expected to become a thing of the past in Alberta in the coming weeks. As of June 1, 2018, new provincial legislation will mandate the prepayment of fuel.

“We certainly welcome this change in legislation which will very much hamper the ability for criminals to steal gas at the pump," said CPS Staff Sergeant Graeme Smiley.

With files from CTV’s Jordan Kanygin