Record gas prices prompt Coon Rapids to mandate gas prepayment

Coon Rapids is the first Minnesota city moving toward mandatory prepayment.
Coon Rapids is the first Minnesota city moving toward mandatory prepayment.

As of last weekend, the average price for a gallon of gasoline in Minnesota stood at $3.43 a gallon. That's an all-time record.

It's no surprise that rising gas prices correlate with increased drive-off gasoline thefts, which can be devastating for low-profit-margin gas stations.

Thanks in large part to the lobbying of small station owners, the city of Coon Rapids last night approved a plan requiring prepayment at all pumps -- a first in Minnesota.

Currently, station owners can decide to require prepayment at their own businesses, but some worry that doing so might drive customers elsewhere. The Coon Rapids ordinance gets around that problem by mandating prepayment throughout the city.

According to the Star Tribune, though there were only 225 fuel thefts in Coon Rapids in 2002, that number rose to 481 last year. In 2010, less than 2 percent of fuel thefts in the city resulted in an arrest, compared to a 74 percent arrest rate for shoplifting.

With gas prices going nowhere but up in the short term, Coon Rapids' move should pay dividends well into the summer. Fox reports that for just the fourth time in state history, prices are expected to soar up to $4 a gallon by Memorial Day.

Assuming Coon Rapids residents aren't so aggrieved by the new policy they opt to drive to Blaine for their gas, which seems like a safe bet, the prepayment mandate is a simple and painless way to deter crime and help small businesses. With gas thefts rising along with prices over the last half-decade, it's surprising that Coon Rapids is the first city in Minnesota to head down this path.

See also:
-- Rising Twin Cities gas prices: Iran to blame?

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