Stealing gasoline may be one of the dumber types of robbery, given the likelihood of being glimpsed on camera or by another driver, but it is nonetheless on the increase says Crime Stoppers.
On Tuesday, in collaboration with four retail groups, the tips-driven crime-busters launched an initiative aimed at putting a dent in the theft.
The move comes four weeks after gas station attendant Jayesh Prajapati, 44, was dragged to his death at a north Toronto Shell station by a motorist who pumped $112 worth of gas and then fled without paying.
The unsolved case is being treated as a homicide, and the name and picture of the suspect, Max Edwin Tutiven, 39, has been widely distributed. He is thought to be in the Montreal area.
In Mississauga last year, 62-year-old Petro-Canada attendant Hashem Atifeh Rad was killed as he too tried to prevent a driver from leaving the pumps without paying.
The Crime Stoppers campaign coincides with the introduction in the Ontario legislature of a private member's bill by Liberal Mike Colle, dubbed Jayesh's Law, that would compel drivers to prepay for all gas purchases, regardless of the amount.
Mr. Colle represents the Eglinton-Lawrence constituency, where Mr. Prajapati died.
At Monday's meeting of the Toronto Police Services Board he said that in Toronto alone, there were close to 1,600 so-called "gas-and-dash" thefts last year.
"It's a waste of police resources," to chase after gas thieves, he said. "Police officers should not be the bill collectors for the oil companies."
He added that since British Columbia put a similar law in place, gas-and-dashes have ceased.
In launching the Crime Stoppers campaign on Tuesday, Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair voiced support for Mr. Colle's bill, predicting it will both save lives and reduce crime.
The anti-theft initiative campaign is being orchestrated in concert with the Canadian Fuels Association, Mac's Convenience Stores Inc., the Ontario Convenience Stores Association and the Canadian Independent Petroleum Marketers Association.
It is built around a series of poster ads that will be displayed at gas pumps, depicting photographs of fictional thieves holding up licence plates, redolent of old-fashioned police mug shots, alongside the Crime Stoppers' 1−800 TIPS hotline and a reminder that gas thieves are easy to track down.
CFA president Peter Boag told reporters that gas theft is not the minor offence that some people believe it to be, and that "employee and customer service should never be at risk."
With a report from Adrian Morrow