Wave of fuel thefts hits Freeland rental business

FREELAND — When they named it U-Haul, they didn’t mean you hauling the gas out of the trucks and running away with it.

Another wave of fuel-stealing has hit the rental-vehicle franchise operated by the Tartan Thistle at Cameron Road and Highway 525 in Freeland.

Several times in the past couple of months, someone has broken the restraints from the tops of the gas tanks on the trucks parked behind the business, said Maureen Lee, Tartan Thistle owner.

Ten or so gallons at a time have been sucked into portable gas cans, then the sucker has taken off, apparently on foot, with the booty, Lee said.

“Somebody has been using us as their own personal gas station,” she said. “They’re going to get busted.”

A sheriff’s deputy came close to catching a suspect, said Island County Undersheriff Kelly Mauck.

Responding to a call shortly before 4 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 10, the deputy spotted someone fiddling with the gas cap on a rental truck, Mauck said.

The suspect, described as a lone male, ran off before he could be apprehended, Mauck said.

“The deputies in the South Precinct are aware of the situation,” he said. “They’re keeping an eye on it. The investigation is continuing.”

Sheriff’s deputies responded to the Tartan Thistle eight times between Aug. 28 and last Saturday, according to dispatch call logs.

While the burglar alarm in the Tartan Thistle office went off a couple of times during that period, there appears to have been no attempts to break into the building, Lee said.

She said a wave of gas-stealing from the rental trucks has occurred before, notably back when the price of fuel was more than $4 per gallon.

Mauck said the state of the economy plus the approaching holiday season may be contributing to a slight increase in similar crimes being recorded on the South End.

“I just hope somebody catches them,” Lee said of her gas stealers, who she suspects have been the same person or persons each time.

“It needs to stop. They need to go to jail,” she said.

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