Local businesses are getting tired of burdensome gasoline theft and related damages that they say are negatively affecting their bottom line.
Eddie Dixon, owner of Sew Creative Upholstery and a U-Haul truck rental location, says thieves are regularly stealing gasoline from the trucks at his 1400 Lander Ave. location.
Referring to the thieves as “creatures of the night,” Dixon says they have been stealing anywhere from 5 to 30 gallons of gasoline, three to four nights a week for the past month.
“It's just more frustrating than anything,” Dixon said. “It affects my profitability because the cost of the gasoline comes right out of my pocket and its not like anyone is going to return my gasoline or anything, even if they are caught.”
This isn’t the first rash of gas thefts for Dixon. He says about a year-and-a-half ago the same incidents were occurring, but the thief was caught and then the thefts ceased.
Dixon’s business isn’t the only business that has suffered from the “creatures of the night.” Valley Distributors, at 1900 Paulson Rd., has also suffered a rash of break-ins and gasoline thefts. General Manager Todd Anderson reports 21 break-ins this year alone.
“It’s pretty consistent” he explained. “They have stolen gas three or four times and we think its just a few gallons, but the method they use is what hurts. They get under the trucks and cut the inlet hose to siphon out gas.”
In one instance, Dixon says that the thief cut the wrong hose and the damage cost Valley Distributors nearly $600. Other times, thieves have stolen lumber, plywood, equipment and other items.
Both Dixon and Anderson indicate that video surveillance systems are ineffective because the thefts are occurring at night and the thieves hid in shadows to avoid possible identification. They also both say they have called law enforcement authorities, who say they will increase patrols in the area.
Turlock Police Department spokesperson Mayra Lewis says when thefts are occurring with no known suspect, the standard procedure is to document the thefts and issue a “be on the lookout” notice during turnover or briefings between patrol shifts. Officers will then look for items or people who could be suspected of or related to the thefts. They will also increase patrols in the area of the thefts by sitting and waiting, or taking breaks and watching the location between calls for service.
As for what the thieves are doing with the gasoline, there are numerous possibilities. They could be filling up their own tanks, selling the gas to others for a profit, or simply trading gasoline for drugs or alcohol.
“It is bizarre that someone needs that much gasoline for themselves. I think they are trading it for drugs,” said Dixon.
Dixon’s location where the U-Haul trucks are stored does not have a security fence, which likely makes the trucks an easy target for thieves. But he is fed up with the thefts and wants something done – even if he has to take matters into his own hands.
“Something has to be done. At some point I’m going to get to the level of frustration where I’m going to camp out there one night and end up beating the crap out of someone. I hope it doesn’t come to that,” he said.