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Toronto gas station attendant, owner warn of 'drive-off' fuel theft amid record prices

The Ontario Convenience Stores Association says it expects thefts of tanks of gasoline to rise in tandem with the increasing cost to fill-up.

"We're seeing gas stations with two and three drive offs a week now," says the association’s CEO Dave Bryans.

The owner of a number of west Toronto gas stations, who did not want to be identified, figures "drive off" thefts have doubled in recent weeks.

Jenish Patel, an attendant at a station near Dundas Street West and Kipling Avenue, said they noticed a change after the 11-cent hike over the weekend.

Since last Wednesday, the cost of gas in Ontario has jumped 24 cents per litre to record-breaking gas prices. Prices are expected to soar at least six more cents this week, pushing prices at the pump closer to $2 per litre.

"People have started complaining," Patel says. "Drive offs are happening often and in huge amounts. Let's say $200 bucks last night."

It can be a crime that's hard to watch for owners and gas station workers.

"I get scared," Patel said. "Even being so attentive, I don't want people to drive off, particularly on my shift."

The Ontario Convenience Stores Association and the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police are hoping to revive efforts to make pre-paying for gas mandatory; something Alberta and British Columbia have already done.

It is an effort that goes back at least a decade, most recently in the form of a private members' bill by Progressive Conservative MPP Deepak Anand. The bill stalled at the committee level.

"We've had two of our employees killed in the last eight years and one customer. And we just don't want to see another death," Bryans said.

The Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police is concerned about public safety and the cost of gas thefts.

"An incredible amount of time and money is spent and wasted on police officers responding to these calls," says the association’s executive director Jeff McGuire.

York Regional Police say they spent roughly $600,000 and 7,000 hours investigating some 200 incidents of gas thefts in 2018.

Toronto police told CTV News Toronto on Tuesday that they have not noticed a notable increase in the "theft of gas occurrences" in the west end of the city.

Bryans says it's the gas station owners who carry the burden of the thefts, adding that, "Those families are the ones stuck paying for the losses." Top Stories

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