York Regional Police say soaring fuel prices have caused a significant increase in gas thefts at the pumps.

Police say motorists in the area have been filling up their tanks and then driving away without paying.

Statistics show the number of "drive-offs," as they are referred to by gas station attendants, has increased 42 per cent across York region since 2007.

However, thefts in the southern part of the region are up a whopping 70 per cent.

There have been 474 gas thefts reported so far this year. Last year, there were 335 at this time.

While some motorists are committing drive-offs during the day, police say the majority of them are happening at night.

Kukan Sritharan, an attendant at an Esso in Vaughan, says there is about one gas-and-dash theft a day at his location. He says many don't get caught because they use fake licence plates.

"When we call police, they say it's not an assigned number, so we are losing money," Sritharan said.

Some surveillance cameras have caught drivers filling up their tanks and then placing the nozzle on the ground so attendants aren't immediately alerted to the theft.

While Toronto police don't have exact figures, they say the number of gas-thefts in the city are also up. The force says most of the drive-offs happen at night and close to highways so drivers can make a quick getaway.

Police warn drivers who are caught stealing gas will be charged with a criminal offence and will face a fine and probation.

Meanwhile, police are recommending drivers buy a locking gas cap to ensure they don't become a victim of theft from criminals who siphon fuel from vehicles.

With a report from CTV Toronto's Naomi Parness