Propane Tank Thieves Strike Around the Country

According to reports, propane bandits have struck in three states in recent weeks, targeting the five-gallon cylinder, shown above. (image: Michael Bonnett Jr. via flickr.com)

Fifteen were filched from a gas station in Philadelphia.

Another 22 were taken from a convenience store in the town of Milroy, Pa.

Thieves got 37 from three different stores around Louisville, Ky.

And 40 more went missing in Minneapolis.

In recent weeks, there has been a rash of unrelated propane tank thefts at retailers around the country, raising questions about what the thieves’ intentions are for the purloined propane.

The reports don’t specify, but it seems the propane bandits are targeting 5-gallon cylinders — the most popular size on the retail market, and a common tank for gas grills. The heists all follow the same model: The tank-jackers cut the locks on the outdoor cages that house the cylinders and make off with the loot.

The cost of a filled five-gallon tank is $50, according to one police estimate. A full tank weighs close to 40 pounds.

Law enforcement agencies have previously linked tank thefts with the production of the street drug methamphetamine, since the tanks have been used to store a chemical required for the drug’s synthesis. However, a spokesman for the Minneapolis Police suspected other motives, pointing instead to the possibility that street people could use the tanks for impromptu heating. Or perhaps to power a forklift.

Though as fuel stealing goes, heating oil is a much more common target, especially in Ireland and the United Kingdom.