Gas prices in LaPlace lead to eight drive-offs

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 4, 2005


Staff Reporter

LAPLACE- Since gas prices have spiked, gas thefts are running rampant in gas stations across Louisiana, and St. John the Baptist Parish has not been spared the “drive-offs,” as the industry calls them.

The St. John Parish Sheriff’s office has received eight reports of gas thefts within the past week, including one report of a vehicle driving off after guzzling up over $50 in gas.

According to Natalie Babin, executive director of the Louisiana Oil Marketers and Convenience Store Association, gas thefts always peak when gas prices go up, and LaPlace, where most of the thefts in St. John Parish occurred, is in a prime spot.

“LaPlace, Baton Rouge and other places such as that right off the interstate see higher rates of drive-offs,” she said.

Babin said that Louisiana was one of the first states to pass a legislation stating that those caught in drive-offs would have their license revoked.

Regardless, people still will take that chance.

Melita Vinnett and Letisha Farlough are two cashiers at a gas station on Airline Highway that recently had two drive-offs on the same day, within a few hours of each other.

They both said that when gas thieves strike, there is not much they can do. They try to run out if they feel they can catch them, but usually they just call the police.

Vinnett said she has only seen one gas thief caught by police. It was last year during what she said was another spike in gas prices when a man in a work truck tried to drive off. She is unaware of what consequences he faced as a result.

Babin said that it’s the decision of each individual store owner if they want to use a pre-pay only system, and many gas stations do.

Farlough said that the station she works at does not have one, but that is not the decision of the store owner, but the corportion of which it is affiliated with. In terms of customer service, they always “want the pumps turned on,” she said.

Babin also said consumers should not be so quick to question store owners as to why gas prices are so high.

“Convenience store owners inherit gas prices from the Exxons of the world,” Babin said, “and refineries have some power over setting prices, too.”

Besides, those working at those stores share the same sentiments as all motorists do.

“Yeah, those gas prices are high,” Vinnett, “we’re all going to be on a bike soon.”