From Social Rupture.
They got Michael Barker’s lawnmower, sucking it dry of gasoline in the dead of night. They pilfered a 5-gallon can of the fuel from Sue Strand’s work shed. They drained the car across the street dry, Strand said, prompting a brief argument between husband and wife about whether someone had neglected to fill the tank.
But perhaps the most galling anecdote among a rash of gasoline thefts on a small stretch of Lorane Highway over the past few weeks belongs to Jim and Sandy Flora, who moved into a tidy manufactured home there last December.
A few weeks back, Jim Flora hopped into his truck and fired up the engine for a quick trip into town, only to discover the tank on empty. He thought he’d filled the thing up. Only by coasting down Chambers Street did he make it to a gas station, to his relief. But every gallon the attendant poured into his tank wound up spilling all over the pavement. Thieves had bypassed his siphon-proof truck by snipping the fuel line itself.
“As fast as they were putting gas in,” Sandy Flora said, “it was coming out. They had to have the fire department come down and clean all that up.”
Jim Flora had to have the truck towed, to fix the gas line and have it sheathed in a steel casing so it can’t be sliced again, to the tune of $567. Sandy Flora was so shaken up by the incident that she had a thousand-dollar alarm system installed. All so some bandit couldn’t make off with a few bucks’ worth of gasoline.
“It is unsettling,” she said. “My husband is angry.”
So is the whole neighborhood. And because people who live in this part of the county are well aware that cutbacks to the sheriff’s budget means they aren’t likely to get any investigation, they’ve taken it upon themselves to try to head off the next larceny.
It just so happens that Sue Strand and her husband, Jerry, run a sign business: J&S Signs. They’ve erected a professional-quality sign outside their property, that reads in giant lettering: “Gas thieves in the area; Keep your eyes open!”
Sue Strand has no idea whether the sign will have any effect. But it’s about all she can think of to do.
“It’s not anything against law enforcement,” Strand said. “Just the nature of the beast. We want people to be kind of a neighborhood watch.”