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By JOSHUA COFFMAN email@example.com VINE GROVE — This tiny community, about one-fourth the size of Elizabethtown, has had as many gasoline drive-offs in the past six weeks as its larger counterpart has reported all year. Countywide, the number of drive-offs has dwindled, despite record-high prices at the pump. Law enforcement officials credit the dip in thefts to more stations requiring motorists to pay inside first or to pay with a card at the pump. Police in Vine Grove say the spike in thefts there stems from a couple employees at the town’s BP station. And gas wasn’t all that was allegedly stolen. Since May 1, Vine Grove has reported 11 drive offs. Elizabethtown police have responded to 10 all year, according to spokesman Virgil Willoughby. Late this week, Vine Grove police began serving warrants on several people accused of being involved with stealing gas at a BP — thefts police believe were facilitated by two employees. Vine Grove Officer C.J. Fischer said she noticed a pattern after the store reported seven drive-offs in two days. The same employees, she said, were working each day. Fischer said other items from the store were missing and a review of a surveillance tape showed the employees and a family member taking items. The employees also allegedly used the store’s machines to illegally obtain cards to put minutes on their cell phones. Furthermore, Fischer said, the suspects allegedly let children with them take items from the store. Police planned to begin serving warrants on felony theft charges and misdemeanor charges of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Vine Grove Police Chief Steven Manning reported a rise in gasoline drive offs to City Council earlier this month. Friday he seemed shocked by the details of the case, especially the alleged use of children in the crimes. He and other officers say they plead for gas stations to insist on customers paying for gas before pumping. But, until the use of credit cards at the pump, many owners feared inconveniencing customers. Elizabethtown averaged between 60 and 70 drive offs in the three previous years before trailing off to only 10 halfway through this year. Willoughby credited new payment policies for driving down the number of thefts. Radcliff police spokesman Bryce Shumate said specific numbers for that city were unavailable, but he felt confident saying the number of cases were down. Manning said drive offs can be difficult for clerks to handle, but his department will prosecute each one it can. Clerks are really busy, he said. “They might not notice it for a while.” Penalties can include license suspension. But as gas prices continue rising, it may not be long before a full tank of stolen gas crosses the $300 threshold of becoming felony theft. Joshua Coffman can be reached at (270) 505-1740.