Leader Blues

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

TOP STORY>> Gas prices continue to climb above $2

IN SHORT>> The record is shattered as managers here predict the cost per gallon could reach $2.50.

Leader staff writer

Looking for cheap gasoline?

It won’t be found anywhere between Sherwood and Beebe, as all stations surveyed were over the $2 mark.

Overall, Beebe had the most inexpensive gas in the area, ranging from $2.029 to $2.049, with an average of $2.034.

The Citgo station in Beebe, as of Tuesday, would actually sell its unleaded gasoline for $1.999, if the customer used the Citgo cash card.

One gas station manager in Jackson-ville said Tuesday, “Yesterday we were at $1.99, now we are at $2.09. I’m hardly making a penny a gallon. It’s scary,” she said. Said another Jacksonville convenience store manager, whose store is selling gas at $2.099, “Rumor has it that gas could hit $2.50 by July.”

A manager of a convenience store in Cabot said their price was $2.029 “but that could change at any minute.”

As of Tuesday, the state’s average, according to the American Automobile Association, was a record $2.013 for a gallon of unleaded gasoline, almost six cents lower than the new national record average of $2.072.

Locally, Beebe is averaging $2.034, while Cabot averaged three cents higher at $2.064. Jacksonville’s average for a gallon of unleaded gasoline was $2.081, while Sherwood was at $2.096.

In the state, two metropolitan areas are still slightly under the two-dollar mark, according to the AAA. Fort Smith is at $1.977 for a gallon of unleaded gasoline, while Pine Bluff is averaging $1.993. The Little Rock-North Little Rock area is at $2.012, Texarkana is at $2.018 and Fayetteville is averaging $2.042.

As gas prices go above the $2 mark, police say they have not seen any increase in drive-offs.

Even the Lonoke and Beebe police departments, each of which have been reporting one or two each week for several months, say there have been no increases in gas drive-offs as prices rise.

“By and large you may have a few spur-of-the-moment people, but I don’t think rising gas prices are going to make it go up all of a sudden,” said Capt. Charles Jenkins of the Jacksonville Police Department, referring to gas drive-offs. “I think your law-abiding citizen will always pay for gasoline no matter what the price is.”

Jenkins said the departments would probably maintain the same levels of patrols until a gas shortage arises and long lines begin to form. Even then, he said monitoring gas drive-offs would fall secondary to ensuring crowd safety, as people become agitated from waiting in the lines.

He and Sgt. Dwayne Roper, of the Cabot Police Department, noted the gas stations use many crime prevention techniques and deterrents that help keep drive-off numbers down. The gas stations use options like prepaying inside, using credit and debit cards at the pumps, posting notifications that surveillance cameras are in use, and posting notifications of the consequences of driving away without paying for gas.

“What people have to understand is, it is a crime,” Jenkins said.

As of Tuesday, only seven states were averaging below the $2 mark. They were Georgia ($1.987), Louisiana ($1.997), New Jersey ($1.904), Oklahoma ($1.997), South Carolina ($1.955), Texas ($1.978) and Virginia ($1.992).