New form of gas theft could cost drivers big bucks

Gas tank drilling

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Thieves are known to steal cars and even the items left in them, but lately they’re targeting something a driver wouldn’t know was taken until hopping into a vehicle.

“We have a rash of gasoline thefts that are happening right now and they are happening from Halawa to East Honolulu,” Honolulu Police Department Sgt. Kim Buffett said.

It’s a crime spike that’s been gaining traction.

In less than a month, nine cars have fallen victim. Six of them had gas tanks drilled into. The other three had gas siphoned out.

Nitta’s Auto Repair has a good guess why.

“It’s gonna get worse because gas prices go up and up and up,” owner of Nitta’s Auto Repair George Nitta said.

But it could have deadly consequences.

“Don’t drill it. If you drill it with a drill, the arching of the spark and the drill will ignite the gas and blow the gas tank up and they will die,” Nitta said.

Thieves are risking it and they’ve been hitting the pavement hard.

“What they are targeting, SUVs and commercial vehicles, but not only that, they are targeting vehicles that have plastic gas tanks,” Sgt. Buffett said.

Plastic gas tanks are easier to drill into and there’s less chance for a catastrophic spark.

However, it will still hit drivers in the pocketbook. A new tank plus labor could cost as much as $2,000.

Car companies have added devices to newer models to make it harder on criminals.

“They addressed that it’s pretty hard to siphon gas from a Honda tank, but with this new drilling scenario or option a lot of people are vulnerable,” Tony Honda service manager Kurtis Tsuha said.

HPD says to avoid falling victim, park in a garage or well-lit area. Do not park on the street and for added security, install a motion detector.

No arrests have been made.

Anyone caught could face theft and property damage charges.

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