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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (WDAF) – There’s a new warning about a crime that some are linking to the high price of gas – thieves drilling into vehicle gas tanks to steal fuel.

Newer vehicles have an anti-rollover valve that relieves pressure in the tank and also prevents would-be thieves from siphoning gas, according to AAA, so crooks are bypassing the valve and drilling right into the underside of the car.

In Kansas City, police in Overland Park and Independence are investigating multiple such reports. Police say the crimes happened overnight last week and left at least two pickup trucks and a third vehicle damaged.

In Washington state, where the average price of regular gas was $4.74 on Monday, police in the city of Everett warned drivers of the crime:

With the sharp and fast rise of price at the gas pumps we are seeing an increase in gas theft. While some thieves use rubber hoses to siphon fuel out, we are seeing modern day thieves use power tools to drill a hole in the gas tank and steal fuel. The cost of damage to the gas tank far exceeds that of the gasoline and we recommend that you park your vehicle in a garage or well-lit and high traveled area to help deter would-be thieves. If you see or hear and suspicious activity near your vehicle, call 911 right away.

Everett Police Department

The Automobile Club of Southern California has also alerted members about the tactic; at least two instances of gas tank drilling were reported in the San Diego area last week.

AAA said it’s an expensive crime. If it’s a small hole, a mechanic may be able to patch the tank, If not, car owners could face a repair bill of more than $1,000 to replace a damaged gas tank.

It also creates a potential fire safety hazard.

How can you tell if you have been a victim of fuel theft?

AAA said those who suspect they were a victim of fuel theft should look for the following signs:

  • The smell of gas as you approach your vehicle
  • A puddle under your vehicle near the fuel tank
  • The vehicle is not starting
  • The vehicle starts but the fuel gauge shows fuel is missing and/or the check engine light comes on

What should you do if you confirm your vehicle has been tampered with?

  • Contact the police to file a report
  • Reach out to your insurance agent to find out if your policy covers the repair
  • Take your vehicle to get fixed as soon as possible

Here are some tips from AAA on how to protect your vehicle:

  • Park in the garage at your home if you have one.
  • When out in public, park in a well-lit area with high traffic.
  • If possible, park in a secure location like a fenced-in lot or parking garage.
  • When in a garage, find a parking spot near the exit or elevator since those have the most visibility and foot traffic.