Crooks stealing from Valley gas pumps

FRESNO, Calif.

The owner of a gas station in Clovis has paid more than $2,000 just for repairs, which includes installing pad locks on the pumps where thieves are tampering with the valves inside.

But it's not just thieves; frustrated drivers are also doing some damage.

"It's totally new to me," Clovis resident, Lyn Mitchell said. "It's kind of surprising to me, but then again not, gas prices are so high."

With Fresno-area gas price averages hovering just below $4.30 per gallon some are looking to take free fuel.

"It's happened three times here," said Jarrett Martinez who works at the Villa Food Mart in Clovis. Locks were recently installed at the pumps here to detour thieves.

"They opened the pump up and somehow rigged it up so they could just pump free gas," Martinez said.

The station owner, Peter Lee, told Action News he only noticed the problem when a customer couldn't fill up. So he called Banks and Co., which installs and repairs gas station equipment, to fix the tampered valves.

"When the prices go up, I think people are getting bolder and more desperate in trying to steal fuel," said Dan Chamberlain, service manager at Banks and Co.

Chamberlain said his company is also seeing an increase in repairs to pricing displays. "We see it where they smash the displays and things like that... Get abusive, taking out frustrations, I guess," he said.

"I personally don't like it," Martinez said. "I wish that it wouldn't go on, I'm just glad that we found it."

This is a problem more gas stations may find unless employees keep a close eye on their pumps.

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