News3 News Now Investigators

Actions

As gas prices rise, thieves drill into gas tanks under Omaha cars to siphon fuel

"What kind of genius climbs underneath a truck with a drill, into a metal tank, and doesn't worry about a spark?"
Posted at 6:59 PM, May 11, 2022

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — As he flipped open the fueling door and twisted off the cap, Bob Lines says it wasn't necessary to break into his Chevy Silverado's fuel tank to steal the gas out of his tank.

But that's exactly what happened. A mechanic found three-quarters of an inch hole in the rear of the pickup that could only have been caused by a drill.

"What kind of genius climbs underneath a truck with a drill, into a metal tank, and doesn't worry about a spark?" Lines wondered aloud.

Before he discovered the reason for his mysteriously low tank, he refueled. That's when he discovered the problem.

"I was driving to work with a full tank of gas," Lines said. "By the time I got to work, I was less than three-quarters (of a tank)."

Since late March, there have been at least a dozen incidents of gas tanks being compromised to siphon the fuel, according to Omaha police. That's not counting less damaging ways to steal gas that have also been reported. Most are from vehicles that sit higher off the ground, like pickups and SUVs.

It cost about $700 to have his tank replaced with one found at a salvage yard, Lines said. That's less than it would've been new, but not something that fits into his budget. Nor was losing a tank and a half of fuel.

"I'm struggling to get by in the economy just like everybody else," Lines said. "I'm planning a trip here in August. That $700 was supposed to go to that."

The price of gas has steadily increased all year. It cost about $4.05 on average to buy a gallon of regular, unleaded fuel in Omaha on Wednesday, according to AAA. A year ago, it cost $2.87.

The U.S. again broke a new record for gas prices Wednesday, at $4.40. Omaha is quickly approaching the local record of $4.095 set in 2013.

We asked a Valley mechanic, Everett Cole if there's anything people can do to protect themselves from gas theft.

"Uh, no," he said. "Fuel prices have gotta drop. Every time this happens it's because fuel gets really, super expensive...and it's going up."

Cole said a full replacement is the safest way to go; it could be covered by insurance. But he says repairs can be possible if the mechanic is willing to take risks and do a repair that might not last.

Lines said a repair shop found his new tank in a salvage yard. He said a dealer told him a new part would have been on backorder.

"I'm trying to make ends meet, just like everybody else," Lines said. "I'm no different. No better, no worse. Just leave my s*** alone."

Download our apps today for all of our latest coverage.

Get the latest news and weather delivered straight to your inbox