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Gas theft becoming an issue for farmers in Kern County

Posted at 3:56 PM, Jul 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-14 20:34:07-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Following the increase in gas prices the crime of gas siphoning has become a growing concern in Kern County.

Gas theft can occur anywhere whether it be on your driveway at home, or any other place you park your vehicle. That is why the Kern County Sheriff's Office wants to remind everyone ways to protect their property.

Bakersfield farmer Anthony Buoni couldn’t believe what he saw on his cell phone’s security alert system. One Sunday afternoon someone allegedly stole gas from his property

“I saw the guy turn to his wife and he kind of gave me a weird look and I knew he was going to try and run for it. Theft is a very big problem out on our farm. We can’t just let them steal our fuel and steal our hay and everything that we’ve worked hard to make. It’s a lot of money that they are getting away with."

Buoni told 23ABC that he confronted the person who he says was siphoning gas from a tank on his farm but this isn’t the only time Buoni has been a victim. He adds after this incident gas theft occurred again – a total of 3 times in one week.

“It happened the following night. People came back, different people came back to steal fuel. A few nights after that, some people came back again.”

But it’s not just Buoni experiencing the issue. The Bakersfield Police Department says that between January and June of 2021 15 cases of gasoline theft were reported. At that time, Triple-A says the average price of gasoline in Bakersfield was $4.25. Now in 2022 the number of gasoline theft cases reported in Bakersfield has jumped to 43 as of June with the average price of gas soaring up to $6.14.

However, Lori Meza with KCSO says that California state law makes it difficult to prosecute what can be considered lower-level crimes.

“The unfortunate thing with things like gasoline theft, if the value isn’t that high, with California state law making it a misdemeanor, it’s typically not something that is going to have a lot of resources spent on it in terms of investigation. So, we really do just like to partner with our community and give them tips on prevention and things like that.”

Meza encourages all vehicle owners to purchase a gas tank cover or a locking gas cap adding that this method will help prevent criminals from a drilling a hole in your gas tank or siphoning from it.

“A lot of the methods that people are kind of coming forward and talking about aren’t necessarily new methods in terms of what we’ve seen. We do see a lot of reports that it was maybe siphoned out and that can easily be solved with getting a locking gas cover.”

KCSO encourages anyone who becomes a victim of gas theft to call them immediately at (661) 861-3110 or to file a report.