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    Ohio Fights Drive-Offs

    Warning labels adorn local gas station pumps.

    DETROIT -- In an attempt to stop drive-offs from gas stations, the Ross County Sheriff's Department has placed hundreds of warning labels on pumps throughout the area. The labels detail the penalties for the theft.

    In case driving away from a gas pump without paying has crossed your mind, a warning has been placed in plain view to curtail the crime, The Chillicothe (Ohio) Gazette reported. The Ross County Sheriff's Office has placed hundreds of orange, black and white labels on gas pumps outlining penalties as part of a campaign to lessen the number of drive-offs.

    It's a move Sheriff Ron Nichols said he hopes makes people use their common sense. "It's not just $5 in gas -- it's theft," he said. "Hopefully, these labels will make people stop and think 'Is it really worth it?"

    Nichols said the more than 750 labels clearly state people who drive away without paying can face up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. The problem is becoming widespread in the county, with three or four drive-offs reported every day, the report said.

    "It's a great idea," said Debbie Schultz, a district manager for Columbus, Ohio-based Certified Oil Co., which operates 118 gas stations and convenience stores. "It's such a good program I have gone to different counties and tried to get them to implement the idea."

    Schultz said consumers who go for the illegal discount don't understand how their actions affect other people. "If this goes on just once every day for an entire year, we lose thousands of dollars," she said.

    More stations are using video cameras to monitor customers and stop drive-offs, and intercom systems to speak directly to motorists at the pump. The intercom's purpose is to ease communications, but also alerts motorists they are being watched.

    Schultz said attendants are also trained to keep an eye on the pumps and will write down any license number they see in a drive-off and notify police.

    Ohio's Elected officials would like to see the practice stopped as well. On May 23, the house introduced a bill that would require the suspension of a person's driver's license if caught and convicted of stealing gasoline. The bill states drivers will be required to pay.

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