Rolla Police Department Chief Sean Fagan updated the Rolla City Council on two recent issues that have materialized in the area: Craigslist transactions and individuals driving off without paying for their gas.
“Before I talk about the gas station issue I just want to bring up one other issue. We recently had an armed robbery in our town by a young man who was going to buy a PlayStation off of Craigslist,” said Chief Fagan at the Nov. 5, 2018 council meeting.
The armed robbery was the result of an individual who agreed to buy a PlayStation from a young man claiming to have the gaming console on Craigslist, when in fact the seller from Craigslist never had a PlayStation to begin with.
Both parties ended up meeting at the Salvation Army parking lot and what ensued was an armed robbery. The armed robber was apprehended and taken into custody, said Fagan.
“I just wanted to remind the citizens of Rolla that the police department is a safe place to do these transactions,” said Fagan. “We ask that people come either to our parking lot, which is completely surrounded by surveillance, or they can actually have a hand to hand transaction in the Rolla Police Department Lobby.”
The individual claiming to have the PlayStation was asked by a detective, when taken into custody, whether he would have met the buyer, if the buyer had asked him to meet at the Rolla Police Department parking lot. The young man replied of course he would never have met the buyer at the police station parking lot.
“It’s a lot safer, so it would have saved the young man from getting robbed if he had decided to meet at police department,” said Fagan, who added that he wanted to remind the community to please use the Rolla Police Department’s parking lot or lobby when doing any transactions from the internet that involve meeting the other party in person.
“It’s getting to be that time of year, and we just want people to be safe,” said Fagan. “The second item I am bringing forward to you is a problem I have noticed with our police department pertaining to gas station drive-offs.”
A number of the gas stations in Rolla require an individual to pre-pay, either by going in and giving the cashier money, or by using their credit card. However, there are other gas stations in the area that don’t require that.
Some fuel pumps are set up so that if someone inserts a credit card and starts pumping gas before completing the numerous steps required on the keypad, it automatically reverts to pay inside after pumping is completed.
“Those gas stations have a very large number of what we call drive-offs – people pumping gas in their car and then just taking off,” said Fagan. “The gas station calls the police department and they want the police department to get their money back.”
In the last year the Rolla Police Department has taken 187 reports for drive-offs. On average, these types of calls keep an officer tied up for one or two hours by taking the initial report, trying to identify the suspect, attempting to locate and contact the suspect and ensuring the suspect has returned the bill.
“It’s a big drain on the resources of my police department for something that is 100 percent preventable,” said Fagan. “So what I am going to do is I am sending the gas stations a letter saying that we are no longer going to be taking drive-off reports unless we have enough information to actually apprehend the person who did it.”
Fagan has contacted several other police departments within Missouri to see how they are addressing the situation.
Some cities have written ordinances requiring gas stations to have a pre-pay policy, but many have seen results by writing letters to their service stations advising them that they will no longer take reports for these incidents.
“We have no problem investigating a crime as long as we treat it as a crime and you agree to prosecution,” said Fagan.
If the letter does not curtail the problem, Fagan recommended to the council that he would like to re-address the situation with a possible ordinance requiring pre-pay.