AUGUSTA (AP) – The price of gasoline isn’t the only thing on the rise. So is the number of gas thefts.

With the price of gas above $3 a gallon, police are getting more reports of drivers filling their tanks and taking off without paying. The Augusta Police Department has gotten 26 gas complaints since the start of October, said Sgt. Mark Desjardin.

“We deal with them a lot more now than we ever used to,” Desjardin said.

At the Lukoil station on Riverside Drive, general manager Victor Refai said he’s told employees to have motorists pay in advance and to pay close attention to people filling up their tanks. But sometimes people fill up and, if they see the cashier is busy, drive off without paying.

“Yes, unfortunately it happens here a lot. More than once a day,” said Refai. “We try to get the license plate, then call the police, but if we can’t get it, there’s nothing the police can do for us.”

Mark Cyr, a retail sales manager for C.N. Brown Co., which owns Big Apple stores, said he hasn’t seen an increase in the number of drive-offs, but when it does happen it is costly because gas prices are high.

“We are making sure our people are writing down plate numbers, checking security cameras and calling the police if something like this does happen,” Cyr said.

AP-ES-11-23-07 1721EST

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