Gas prices have been climbing for the past 22 days in a row. With the national average at $3.952 a gallon, stealing gas might become the crime of the summer.

One company is profiting from all the fear.

According to an article in CNN Money today, these ‘gas cap locks’ are getting a big boost from the high prices:

Rising gas prices have been a boon to companies like Stant Manufacturing, Inc., a manufacturer of locking gas caps and supplier to retailers like NAPA, Pep Boys, Carquest and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

Chris Hoffman, marketing specialist for Stant, said his Connersville, Ind.-based company normally sells about one million locking caps a year for $18 to $20 apiece, but sales so far this year have tripled.

The cap locks, which sell for less than the current price of a tank of gas, work with a simple lock and key. They fit comfortably on every size gas tank and are designed to ward off gas siphoning thieves. But, as I’ll explain further, there are much more dangerous ways of doing this to be wary of.

Although the New York Police Department reports that they have not experienced an increased number of reported gasoline thefts, they have themselves ordered over 400 gas cap locks for a new fleet of police cruisers. They say the locking caps prevent unwanted tampering with police vehicles.

The caps are not guaranteed though. Under standard motor vehicle safety procedures, all caps have a break-away function that is designed to take effect during a serious crash. A determined thief could use a pair of pliers or some brute force to remove the locking cap. But I suppose that’s the point of most anti-theft devices, merely deterring an opportunistic thief who doesn’t want to try too hard.

From the CNN Money article, Dale Fortin, owner and operator of Dearborn Auto Tech in Michigan, provided this absolutely frightening little factoid:

“The locking gas caps don’t do any good,” he said. “That’s why they started this thing about drilling the gas tanks.”In the last six months, Fortin said he has replaced drilled gas tanks on two cars. In both cases, Fortin said that gas thieves drilled right through the tank, an act he described as extremely dangerous.

“One spark can set the thing on fire and then you’ve got gas pouring out and you could get a fireball,” he said.

What?! Apparently gas thieves are actually drilling into the sides of cars so that sweet fuel nectar pours out. That’s got to be the most dangerous crime you could commit for a payout of, at most, 60 bucks?

Just to be safe, I might just drive around my car with only a modicum of gas in the tank and a full gas canister sitting with me in the passenger seat. Whenever the tank gets empty, I’ll just hop out and give it some more juice. I’ll be sure to bring that full cannister with me whenever I leave my car parked too. Just in case.

Let me know what a brilliant idea you think that is in the comment section.

CNN Money: Get your hands off my gas…cap, May 29, 2008