CHATTANOOGA, Tennessee(WDEF) - Chattanooga police believe Thomas Bouch, 39, stole gasoline by cutting fuel lines to at least 18 parked vehicles throughout the Chattanooga metropolitan area.
It's theft crime that could have been a lot worst if fuel began to leak while a motorist was driving said Southside Auto repairman Brandon Stone.
"If it hits the exhaust system, it the vehicle could catch on fire," said Stone.
Cutting fuel lines is also dangerous for the person committing the crime.
"If you're cutting the metal filler tube and create a spark, it could blow up on you. It's very dangerous to do that," said Stone.
Although Police have not confirmed whether or not Bouch is an auto mechanic, Stone said it takes someone with automotive mechanic skills to pull off what Bouch is accused of doing.
"I believe he had mechanical knowledge to know which vehicles to hit and where to cut them to be able to get the fuel out of the tanks because most of them have stops in different spots in the filler neck and he knew which ones to cut and where to cut to get the hose down in the tank."
Auto mechanics say SUV's and trucks are easier targets for gasoline theft because they're elevated high enough to allow a person to get under the vehicle and cut the lines. Experts also told WDEF that Chevy trucks are usually easier targets because of how the fuel line system is designed.
If a motorist suspects their fuel lines have been compromised, there are ways to confirm that belief.
"You're definitely going to smell the fumes. Absolutely. You might see a puddle under your vehicle. When you drive it and hit the break, you'll hear is slosh around," Stone said.