RENO, Nv - Drivers are outraged; many have been starting their cars, only to learn despite a recent fill-up, their tanks are empty. A band of gas siphoning crooks is responsible for the mishap.
Reno police tell us they've seen a spike in gas siphoning this fall. In most cases thieves are targeting cars parked in residential or commercial lots overnight. if you think a tank that locks will protect you, think again. With the trend that's appearing it may end up costing you much more.
it was about a month and a half ago when Nick Bellais left work at Reno Toyota for the night and filled up his tank on the way home.
"I came out the next morning to go to work and I just saw my gas flap was open. Turned the car on and the gas was depleted to a quarter tank," said Bellais.
Nick knew what had happened. Working in the auto business, he'd seen gas siphoning before.
"Yeah, they left the flap open like this... They probably heard something and left in a hurry," said Bellias
In the last 10 weeks the Reno Police Department has received 15 reports of siphoning, but there are probably a lot more victims who have not reported the crime.
"Mostly annoyed...people work their you know whats off to put gas in their tank," said Bellias.
Nick was only out about 30 bucks, but according to Josh Brandenburg with Greg's Garage, the crime can cost a lot more.
"With the plastic tanks it really does not take much. You take a punch and punch a hole in it," said Brandenburg.
Part of the recent trend has been to cut gas lines or even put a hole in the tank, because modern cars have what's called a 'check valve.'
"What it does is you can't stick a siphon tube in it. It won't allow you to do it," said Brandenburg.
Instead of just taking gas, thieves do real damage to the car. It can end up costing the victim thousands of dollars.
That's bad news for Nick Bellais, who added a locking gas cap to his car as a precaution.
"You don't think its going to happen to you but unfortunately things happen like that," said Bellias.
Unfortunately there are few ways to prevent a crime like this. Police suggest parking in a well-lit area.
If you do become a victim, check under your car to make sure you're not spilling gasoline all over the road and creating a hazard.