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Published April 02, 2011, 12:02 AM

Cracking Down on Gas Pump Drive-offs

With higher gas prices, some Minnesota law enforcement officers are seeing more gas drive-offs. Most stations in Minnesota are reporting more people not paying.

With higher gas prices, some Minnesota law enforcement officers are seeing more gas drive-offs. Most stations in Minnesota are reporting more people not paying.

But a gas station manager in Fisher, MN, only sees around a dozen drive-offs a year. He thinks having cameras outside is helping.

The Cenex in Fisher has three cameras focusing on gas pumps, possibly deterring people from not paying for gas.

"The cameras are right out in plain view where everybody can see them and usually if we do have a drive-off, it's somebody local," Cenex manager Jim Mix said.

Mix has worked at the station for six years and says the cameras help. He says usually if someone doesn't pay, it was either because their card didn't swipe or they simply forgot.

"In six years, we've called the sheriff twice and it was the same thing. It was an accident. The Sheriff caught up with them on Highway 2, they just came back and paid for it," Mix said.

Mix may be one of the few seeing few drive-offs. Moorhead is stepping up enforcement after higher gas prices have caused this to be a bigger issue. East Grand Forks police say they see it a lot also, but it's usually easy to find a suspect.

"The last one I caught was two blocks away from the gas station and just didn't want to pay for the gas, he told me," East Grand Forks police officer Tony Hart said.

First-time offenders in Minnesota could face a $200 dollar fine and have to pay restitution. But fines can be much higher.

"It constitutes a theft and if it's not over $500, then it's up to a $1,000 fine and 30 days in jail at the most. Also, the commission of public safety could suspend your license for 30 days," Hart said.

The cameras not only give gas station managers like Mix peace of mind, they help police officers crack down on those who don't pay at the pump.

"If we can get the plate and everything off the tape, if we didn't get it before, then we just call the sheriff and usually they can catch them before they get to the east side or Crookston," Mix said.

Hart says there are drivers who honestly forget to pay, and those who purposely leave usually always admit it.

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