April 20, 2011 -- Bobby Fox has allegedly found a way around high gas prices: steal it.
The Hickory County thief was caught with a hose in his mouth and carrying a bucket siphoning gas from a pickup truck, police in North Carolina told ABCNews.com
"We've had some trucks that had their gas stolen, but we have not connected him to that yet," said Libby Grigg, an administrative assistant at the Hickory Police Department. "That's under investigation."
The area has seen its share of gas theft in recent weeks, including gas siphoning at a U-Haul facility in the neighborhood. The case is unsolved.
Fox was caught red-handed in a separate incident siphoning gas out of one vehicle and when approached by an officer he fled on foot, police said. His motive? "I guess he needed the gas," said Grigg.
The Hickory County thefts are a part of the current trend of gas siphoning crooks across the United States who are skipping trips to the pump, preferring instead to take gas from the cars of neighbors or businesses as gas prices top $4 a gallon in some places.
"It's not mystery. It's like copper theft and other precious metals," says Patrick DeHaan, a senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.com. "It's becoming more appealing for criminals to siphon gasoline and diesel."
In the last few weeks gas thieves have grown brazen, with thieves bypassing gas tank locks by drilling holes in the tanks or the more dangerous method of cutting gas lines. At times, they are walking off, or driving off, with hundreds of gallons of gas.
One daring thief targeted SUVs parked in the driveways of residential homes in St. Charles, Ill.
"We have occasionally have gas thefts reported but nothing like the last three weeks," said Paul McCurtain, spokeman for theSt. Charles Police Department. "We're guessing it's related to the increase in the price of gas and since most are occurring in residential areas all of our officers are very much aware and are spending more time in the area."
After a robbery on Secretariat Court, neighbors reported seeing a white pick up truck and a maroon sedan but no suspects have been apprehended. Authorities are telling residents to place vehicles inside a garage or make sure you get it up close to the house and have your outside lights on to keep gas thieves away.
Reports of Areas Hit By Gas Thieves:
Vineland, New Jersey
In the last quarter of 2010, thieves made off with around 2,000 gallons of diesel fuel valued at $6,000 from Rhoads & O'Hara Architectural Products, a small architectural products firm in New Jersey. The company's mechanic told the Newark Star Ledger that fuel siphoning has been on the rise. To deter criminals an employee at the company told ABCNews.com they have ordered locking gas caps. Since the investigation of gas siphoning the employee said, "We've gotten a lot of phone calls [from businesses] saying they're having the same problem."
Around $900 worth of gas was stolen from a few rigs parked at Gexpro, an electrical supply company. Police told WGN news around 240 gallons of diesel fuel was siphoned. The cops are offering a $1,000 reward for information regarding the incident.
Butler County, Pennsylvania
Gas thieves have targeted cars and boats at the Saw Mill Estates in Clearfield Township. A resident told WPIX that siphoners have targeted his vehicles three to four times taking gas directly from his tank.
Thieves targeted an automated teller business in the area stealing gas from the company's fleet of cars. The incident earlier this year came on the heels of a gas siphoning at a tire and brake center in the area. No arrests were made and police are calling the crimes isolated events.
Cops in Nebraska arrested three suspects caught stealing gas from a truck in the Northeast neighborhood. Authorities were alerted by a neighbor and arrived to the scene of "a hose stuck into the gas tank...the hose led to a red fuel container," according to Sioux City Journal.
A city worker in Gwinett County alerted authorities of natural gas siphoning after spotting a garden hose running from a gas valve into a residential home. Paul Roberts faces charges of theft of services, reckless conduct and damage criminal damage to property for allegedly stealing gas and putting his neighbors lives at risk, according to WSBTV.
A truck driver discovered about 180 gallons of diesel fuel missing from her semi-trailer when she attempted to hit the road late last month. "It seems (to happen) whenever prices go up and when the economy is bad," Porter County Cpl. Larry LaFlower told Chicago Sun Times.
St. Charles, IL
The owners of vehicles parked in driveways on the East side of the city noticed gallons of gasoline taken from their cars between March 14 and March 20.
An employee at Andy Music Store found his tank empty after a man allegedly siphoned gas from his car parked in the back lot of the store. Charlotte, North Carolina
Earlier this month thieves targeted a U-Haul facility in North Carolina siphoning gas from two trucks parked in the back of the lot.