Gas stations in Steinbach say fuel thefts have been happening at an alarming rate in recent months. 

Verna Martens is one of the owners of Super Splash. She says it used to be only a couple of times per month that thieves would fuel up and then leave without paying. But lately, it is happening on almost a daily basis, often four or five times per week. Martens says it could be anywhere from $200 to $500 in fuel a week that is stolen from them. 

"It's just too much and it just needs to stop," she adds. 

Martens explains the theft is usually noticed by their staff within ten minutes of the incident happening. A report sheet is then filled out, the video collected and a file is opened with Steinbach RCMP. Martens says they do not get insurance money for these thefts and guesses they get their money back in fewer than half of all thefts.

Martens says she would have always thought these crimes were being committed by younger people, with less money to spend on gas. But she says the thieves come in all ages, with many of them from out of province.

In an effort to try and combat this issue, Super Splash very recently made the switch to pre-paid fuel. That means, any customer wanting fuel must now either pay first with the cashier inside or prepay at the pump. Martens explains that if a customer comes into the store and authorizes $100 on their credit or debit card, but only pumps $85, they will only be charged for $85. If they authorize $100 in cash but only pump $85, they can walk back into the store and collect their $15 change.

Martens says it is actually quite unique that Steinbach still has so many gas stations that do not require fuel to be paid in advance. In fact, she thinks it might soon become mandatory in our province. She asks their customers to please respect her staff during this changeover.

"Be kind to my staff, they are 16, 17 and 18-year-old kids that are trying to do the best that they can," she says. "They work hard, and they do the best that they can."

According to Martens, the changeover to a prepay system has not meant they have let go of any of their staff. She notes Super Splash is still offering full service and looking to hire more employees. 

List of gas thefts at Super Splash.Super Splash has a list of "gas and dash" incidents at the business.

Meanwhile, Henry Nickel is General Manager for Clearview Co-op. He says historically when gas prices go up, so too do thefts. And, he says thieves are getting creative.

"There are different ways that they are just creating a distraction somehow so that the staff is not focusing on them anymore," he explains.

Others are much brasher and will just fuel up their vehicle and immediately take off. 

Similar to Super Splash, Nickel says all thefts get reported to police unless that individual is known to staff members and can be called directly to come to pay for their fuel. Nickel says he does not have figures for how often these thefts are happening. 

And, like Super Splash, Nickel says they too are seriously considering changing their system so that customers have to prepay for all fuel before pumping. He notes Clearview Co-op recently acquired a new site in Fort Frances, which is 100 per cent prepaid, and he says it is working quite well. 

"There are provinces already that have been legislated to go there, so we anticipate that might happen here as well," suggests Nickel. "There's different things being thought about in order to combat this."

Nickel says their infrastructure is not quite ready to go to the prepay system and suggests it could still take months to get there.