REPUBLIC, Mo. -- The average price of gasoline in Missouri was $3.79 a gallon on Wednesday. Nationally, it was $3.94. Higher gas prices are leading to a new trend at area gas stations -- people filling up and taking off without paying.
Some stations have seen at least $1,000 worth of stolen gas already this year.
"[The] economy is down, unemployment is up, gas prices are up," said Republic Police Officer Jamie Burks.
The Republic Police Department sees a spike in crime at the pumps.
"It's a crime of opportunity," Burks said, "If it's not pay-at-the-pump, it's easy for them to drive up, get their gas and drive off."
In the first four months of 2010, there were 12 reported gas theft drive-offs.
"[In the] first four months of 2011 we had 82," said Burks. "That's about a 580-percent increase."
It's all happening at places that don't force you to pay before you pump. Someone who steals gas lays the nozzle on the ground and then drives away. If the person were to put the nozzle back where it belongs, it would alert the gas station attendant that he was done pumping. By leaving it on the ground, it buys the thief a little more time to get away.