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Police investigate multiple reports of punctured gas tanks in San Luis Obispo

gas tank siphoned
Posted at 5:49 PM, Jul 14, 2023

Since June 1, San Luis Obispo Police say they’ve received eight reports of vehicle gas tanks being punctured and gasoline siphoned from the tanks.

Six of the eight incidents have taken place in commercial and industrial areas of San Luis Obispo.

“It's going to cost our business $1,500 in this case,” said Danielle Burk, General Manager of Browder Painting Company. “It’s kind of very similar to theft of other things like catalytic converters, which has happened in the past. A part that they may sell on the market for $50 might cost, in our case, it cost us about $4,000 to replace.”

While Browder Painting had to make up for the cost of their catalytic converter being stolen, they’re now having to manage without a vehicle for the foreseeable future.

“We're pretty disappointed because our fleet is busy,” Burk added. “The next thing is, what do we do about it? How long is it going to take? How are we going to be without that vehicle? “

With a new gas tank on backorder, Burk said her fleet has adjusted to the loss of a vehicle but plans on adding more security cameras to get a clearer look if something happens in the future.

If something like this happens to you, the owner of Scott's Auto Repair Shop says there are cautionary measures to take.

“First thing you do is you call the fire department. Make sure that you're safe. Do not start the vehicle and let the fire department assess and call your insurance company to have it towed,” said Scott Hayes. “We can take care of it from there.”

While insurance may cover the cost of damages, the total cost is still a pretty penny.

“The newer fuel tanks are pretty much all plastic and they're not as bad financially,” Hayes added. “They can range anywhere from $150 to $800 for a tank, depending on the vehicle. Sometimes getting the fuel tanks out is a two to five-hour job, so that could easily get up into the $500 to $2,000 range.”

Hayes also says that if your gas tank has been punctured and your car catches fire, use a fire extinguisher to put out the flames. Don’t use water because it could cause the fuel to flow into the gutter, causing environmental damage.

The San Luis Police Department is still actively investigating these cases and asks anyone with information to call (805) 781-7312.