Hastings Police Depend on Attendants to Find Gas Thieves

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Hastings, NE-- Over the weekend a Casey's in Hastings reported a man drove off without paying for gas, but did return to pay the $20. However, it is usually not that easy with several similar incidents already in 2014.

Hastings Police say the 22 thefts of gasoline so far this year is just about average, but they are seeing more groupings at similar locations and at similar times, just like the three times already this month at Orscheln's Farm & Home.

Orscheln's said people are able to drive up, pump gas, and pull away because they do not require prepaying for gas like many other stations in the state.

"We have an older system. So most of our pumps are a bit older, so we don't have the newer, updated, more high tech system," said Sylvia Nelson, the Supervisor at Orscheln's Farm & Home.

From there, the police are called to try to find the person but that depends on what the worker inside can see.

"It depends upon the amount of information the clerk at the gas station collects. If they got a good description of the car, a partial description of the car, and a partial description of the driver, then we have something to work with," said Hastings Police Sergeant Steven Murphy.

For Orscheln's, they get good enough descriptions to solve their cases.

Nelson said, "I would say about 75 percent of the time they find the people because we do call them right away so they end up chasing them down and getting them."

However Sgt. Murphy said that's not the typical success in Hastings.

Sgt. Murphy said, "I can think of two or three, where people have come back and probably about three or four where we've been able to identify the person who is responsible and clear the case through issuing a citation."

Of those who were caught, Sgt. Murphy said many admit to being the person involved in other thefts.

Many of these cases are a class 1 misdemeanor because of the amount taken. The punishment is a citation based on the loss of the station.

Nelson, said, "Orscheln's ends up having to pay for it, so we end up having to pay for everything that's lost."

"I know with the profit margin on gasoline not being very much, it has a huge impact on those places that are selling gasoline," added Sgt. Murphy.

Police say the rise in gas prices are not encouraging or deterring thieves, but it is hurting the gas stations more.