Coon Rapids combats drive-off gas thefts - KMSP-TV

Coon Rapids combats drive-off gas thefts

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Higher gas prices lead to more drive-offs for business owners -- and that means all motorists end up paying for it. That's why one metro city is mandating that drivers must pay before they pump.

In his first year as chief of the Coon Rapids Police Department, Brad Wise came up with an idea that would require drivers to pay before they put fuel in their cars as a way to prevent drive-offs, which he said were getting out of control.

"The number of thefts actually represented 20 percent of all thefts in Coon Rapids," he said.

So, he put the proposal before City Council and helped push it until it passed. That means that three months from now, the city will be the first in the state with that unique requirement.

"There is no question, once this goes into effect on Aug. 1, our theft of gas goes to zero -- versus nearly 500 gas thefts that were reported to us," Wise said.

Yet, petroleum lobbyists approached Sen. Tom Bakk, a Democrat representing Ely, with different concerns.

"The petroleum marketers are very concerned ho this impacts convenience stores going forward," Bakk said. "If more cities decide to do that, fewer people will go inside the stores and reduce retail sales."

Bakk said they fear too many people will just pay at the pump instead of walking into the store, and the sales for other items beyond gas are where stations make their money. That's why he introduced a bill that could have undone the ordinance.

The bill Bakk introduced never got a hearing, but similar language has been added to the omnibus transportation bill.

"I do expect -- before the session ends -- there will be a conference meeting on transportation," he said.

Other lawmakers who spoke with FOX 9 News are doubtful of that prediction.

While Wise didn't set out to tangle with any lawmakers -- and instead wanted to tackle a local problem within his city, he now finds himself doing both.

"Clearly, we have drawn the attention of people in the Legislature," he said. "Enough to the point they've introduced a proposal to make our ordinance void. It was surprising, to say the least."

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