West Allis opts for prepay only at all gas stations

Photo By Kristyna Wentz-Graff

Sept. 25, 2012

West Allis - Gas drive-offs will be a thing of the past in West Allis after the Common Council last week voted to make all drivers prepay at the pump.

It's a simple and effective crime-prevention technique, said West Allis Deputy Police Chief Bob Fletcher.

"It helps prevent stations from becoming victims and us from spending resources that could be used in other places," Fletcher said.

The Police Department requested the restriction because patrol officers have to respond to so many gas thefts. The count was nearly 700 from 2006 through 2011, Fletcher said. And it only gets worse as gas prices get higher, he added.

The highest incidents are at gas stations on well-traveled roads and those near Interstate 894.

The new ordinance affects about 25 gas stations, including Bro's Petro Mart, 6819 W. Lincoln Ave., that went prepay on its own about two weeks ago.

"It's a good idea," said Bro's Petro Mart co-owner Abdul Rauf.

Rauf switched to prepay when police, investigating drive-offs at his station, informally asked him why he didn't have prepay. He couldn't think of a reason why, and now he's glad he did it, he said.

Without prepay, Rauf said, "All the time you would have to look to see if drivers are coming in. This way, it's easy."

And the switch cost him virtually nothing, he said, although he did hear some grumbles from customers.

"You're going to see that," he said. "But I explained."

Gas stations that fail or refuse to convert pumps for the prepay approach will risk loss of their business licenses, under the new ordinance. Short of that, police will no longer investigate gas thefts where prepayment is not required.

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