Technology Helping Gas Stations Catch Thieves

Posted at: 02/12/2013 7:05 PM
By: Brittany Lewis

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- Gas prices were down and now they're back up. And some are leaving the gas pumps without paying. Now one local gas station is using some technology to crack down on the problem.

The Shell gas station located on Bridge Street in Albert Lea has two different sets of cameras. One takes a wide shot of all the pumps, another is a close up shot that can capture the license plate.

The gas station says it's lowered the amount of drive-offs significantly.

"We were having a lot of drive off problems and it was billing up to be a lot of money," said Lesa Hutchinson, the manager at the gas station, says the drive-offs were both costly and bothersome.

"I bet we had two a week, at least if not more. It's always frustrating when people are stealing from you. That's just out and out stealing," said Hutchinson.

All that stealing led the gas station to invest in cameras. The cameras capture the car as soon as it pulls in. An image is displayed on a monitor and is captured with a click of a button. That image is so clear the license plate letter and numbers are easily red. So if someone does drive off, the gas station has the power to do something.

"You don't have the loss of the drive off. You can prosecute if you want to or just have them come back and pay for it. Depends on how you wanna deal with that," said Hutchinson.

Scott Truesdell, the owner of Total Security of Southern Minnesota, installed the cameras.

"We know we can't stop it. But what we're gonna do is make people accountable if they do, do it," said Truesdell.

The cameras were expensive, costing around $15,000 but after one year, the gas station says, they've nearly paid back the cost.

"In the beginning when we first put them in, the situation still took place. Little by little as we made people accountable, it's come to just about nil," said Truesdell.

Saving the gas station a lot of money.

"The year before we had $7,000 worth of drive offs, now we only have a couple hundred," said Hutchinson.

Hutchinson said they save some of the images of the drive-offs behind the counter and they have been useful. They've used them a few times to catch people that drove off who come back to the store.