In the wake of record-high gasoline and diesel prices across the Vineyard, there have been at two reported incidents in recent weeks of fuel being stolen from boats in the Edgartown harbor.
Edgartown harbor master Charles Blair confirmed yesterday that he had received two reports from boat owners that gas had been taken from boats moored or docked in the town harbor. In one instance, someone stole a six-gallon gas tank from a boat, he said.
In another case someone reportedly siphoned fuel from a boat docked at the end of North Water street.
Mr. Blair said with gasoline selling for more than $5 a gallon for regular and more than $5.50 for premium at the Edgartown fuel dock, it wouldn’t surprise him if there were more reports of fuel being stolen in the future.
“It upsets me that we have some [bad people] stealing fuel, but I can’t say it surprises me,” Mr. Blair said. “Somebody told me a story that people steal gas from parked cars in other parts of the world all the time — they call them hosers. If gas [prices] keep going up we may have an outbreak of Vineyard hosers.”
An Internet search reveals hoser is a common term for a petty thief who steal gas using a siphon hose. The term originally referred to farmers of Canadian prairies, who would siphon gas from farming vehicles with a hose during the Great Depression of the 1930s. The expression has since been converted to the verb “to hose,” as in to trick or deceive, or steal.
Gasoline thefts have been fairly common in Europe in recent years with prices in some countries climbing to over $10 (in U.S. dollars) for a gallon. But with the average price of gas in this country now eclipsing $4 and $5 per gallon in some states, there have been more and more reported cases of hosers filching fuel.
One town in southern California had two dozen reports of gas being siphoned from cars in one day, prompting police to set up a special task force there to tackle the problem.
The same Internet search also turned up advertisements for special gas siphoning kits like the Flo N’ Go Duramax that comes with a 14-gallon can and attached hose and pump. The ad states that “before you criticize, remember the old adage: Flo N’ Go doesn’t steal gas; gas thieves steal gas.”
A check of Island police departments yesterday found no reports of gas being stolen from parked cars, although the Gazette did receive one unconfirmed report that a woman who parked in the Tisbury park and ride lot had an entire tank of gas stolen.
Tisbury police chief John Cashin said he was not aware of such a report, but he also agreed that with the current cost of fuel, gas thefts are quite possible.
“We haven’t had a formal complaint yet that I am aware of,” Chief Cashin said. “But with gas prices what they are I wouldn’t be surprised in the least. Gasoline has very quickly become a valuable commodity. I would urge people to keep an eye out for people acting suspiciously around [gas tanks.]”