‘People are desperate’: Okanagan drivers report spate of gas thefts

With fuel prices high, it’s perhaps unsurprising that drivers across the Okanagan have reported a spate of gasoline thefts in recent weeks.

Global News spoke with four vehicle owners whose gas tanks have been punctured and emptied in the past few weeks alone.

Drivers say they hope to warn others that this is happening.

The owner of James Tirecraft, a commercial vehicle repair shop in Kelowna, estimates he lost 160 liters of fuel when a thief drilled holes in the gas tanks of two of his service vehicles and dumped them drained.

The incident, which happened on the evening of Sunday June 5 at the Rue Campion business, was captured on surveillance footage.

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“It was one individual. He drilled a hole in a tank, placed a jerry can, went to the other truck and drilled a hole in that one. He spent probably 45 minutes here in broad daylight. [He] didn’t really seem too stressed about it,” said James Matzke, owner of James Tirecraft.

“When the canister was full, he filled another bucket and poured it into his tank until he was done with what he was doing, then he let the rest drain onto the ground.”

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Matzke points out that the impact of this type of crime can be significant.

“It affects everyone. The dollars we have to spend to repair our trucks affects the end-user price, so if we can prevent this kind of thing from happening, it can help keep the price of repairs down. under control,” Matzke said.

The same weekend the auto shop was hit, Kalissa Bellefeuille’s gas tank was punctured when her vehicle was parked overnight at a resort on the west side of Lake Okanagan, while the car of Shaun McCoy was also targeted while parked overnight at her Vernon workplace in the Swan Lake area.

McCoy’s gas tank was punctured in two places.

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He’s plugged the holes for now but thinks the gas tank will need to be replaced, which is a big financial blow for McCoy who didn’t have insurance on the vehicle.

“[It’s a] huge financial blow. I’ve been working on the car for a while so it’s just not what I needed,” McCoy said.

Shaun McCoy looks at this vehicle. In the early morning hours of June 6, 2022, someone drilled into his vehicle.

Megan Turcato/World News

Shaun McCoy’s car was parked at his workplace in Vernon overnight when two holes were punched in the gas tank.

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For UBC Okanagan graduate student Chris Dumigan, the theft happened while he was parked on university land and a full tank of gas was emptied.

Dumigan said replacing the tank would cost around $1,500.

“Watch your stuff… They really will take anything they can get.” It’s honestly a bit sad. Whoever did this is obviously hurting if they’re willing to steal like $100 worth of gas,” Dumigan said.

“Be careful out there. Times are tough. People are desperate.

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According to the North Okanagan RCMP, since the beginning of March, 15 fuel thefts have been reported in this area.

Although police could not immediately provide data from previous years to compare, Const. Chris Terleski said: “Anecdotally, there seems to be an increase in fuel theft reports in our area.”

“With gasoline prices at an all-time high, it is certainly possible that these types of thefts will continue,” Terleski wrote in an email to Global News.

“We encourage the public to take all possible steps to minimize opportunities for fuel thieves.”

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To combat this type of crime, the police encourage citizens to directly report suspicious activity, install locking gas caps, park in well-lit areas and set up video or photo surveillance.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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