Fuel Theft on the Rise in Merced County

March 19, 2008 9:30:04 PM PDT
The high price of gas has led to an increase in fuel thefts in Merced County.Bill Spielman: "These hoses were all cut last year and they stole diesel out of this big tank."

Bill Spielman is fed up with fuel thieves. He says this diesel tank near the back of his almond orchard has been hit at least half a dozen times.

Bill Spielman, Merced Co. Farmer: "One night they stole 800 gallons."

Speilman is certainly not alone.

The Merced County Sheriff's Department says so far this year, 3715 gallons of fuel have been reported stolen. That's 840 more gallons than this time last year.

With deisel prices now topping four dollars a gallon in California, the consequences can be especially costly for those in the agriculture industry.

Diana Westmoreland Pedrozo, Merced Co. Farm Bureau Exec. Dir.: "It's just one more thing that's actually having some of our operations leave the state."

To make matters worse, authorities say fuel theft is one of the most difficult crimes to fight.

Deputy Tom Mackenzie, Merced Co. Sheriff's Dept.: "There are no serial numbers, there is no way to track it. The people who are buying the gas know it's stolen, but they're not going to say anything because they're getting it for half price."

Deputy Tom Mackenzie says that's why people with stored fuel should take extra steps to protect their property.

Deputy Tom Mackenzie: "Put up fences, guard dogs, alarms, whatever you can do. Well lighted areas are best."

Bill Spielman: "We have security lights out here in front, motion lights on the side."

Speilman also now limits the amount of fuel he stores in his tanks overnight. He's installed security cameras in hopes of deterring, and possibly catching, the culprits.

Bill Spielman: "Oh boy, I'd like to catch them. I'd like to catch the people."


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