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Gas thief stresses Port Coquitlam couple after draining $200 worth of fuel from their vehicle

And this isn't the first time the de Gruchys' vehicles have been hit by vandals, leaving them financially drained for repairs and mentally tired about their parking options.

"We really hope the gas was worth it for the amount of stress and financial burden you’ve caused."

Fluctuating fuel prices — at above 200 cents a litre for more than three months now — have resulted in more stress for Tri-City residents.

But one person took it too far by choosing to drill two holes into the tank of a Port Coquitlam couple's vehicle and drain all of their gas.

Luc de Gruchy ultimately lost a day of work after discovering his truck wasn't starting properly and the gauge for the 80-litre tank was on empty, despite having filled it up the night before at Costco.

After he didn't find any leaked gas on the ground of his parking spot in Citadel Heights, he went to the nearest gas station, filled up and noticed he was losing fuel "by the second."

"Frustration and anger," de Gruchy told the Tri-City News when describing the incident, noting he then found two pencil-sized holes intentionally drilled side-by-side at the bottom of the tank.

About $200 worth of gas was emptied by the end of the ordeal.

De Gruchy was forced to turn around and to leave his truck at the station nearest to his home. He and his wife, Julia, reported the incident to police and made a claim with ICBC.

After 15 phone calls, de Gruchy was able to find a repair shop that could take his vehicle in as soon as they could — one that he says he needs for work every day — and was able to borrow a family vehicle.

According to Coquitlam Mounties, the drilling took place between 7 p.m. on June 21 and 6 a.m the next morning when the de Gruchy's truck was parked in the area of Citadel Drive and Shaughnessy Street.

Const. John R. Graham explains to the Tri-City News the amount of fuel stolen stands out in comparison to other related incidents because a larger tank is involved and the damaged sustained by the drilling.

"Not only is this a criminal act, it also greatly inconveniences the victim(s) and their ability to work and utilize their vehicle in the functioning of their lives," says Graham. 

"The manner of these vehicle mischief/thefts is also very dangerous and can result in extensive property damage and/or serious life-threatening injury."

Not the first time

The gas theft has added to what has already been a stressful year for the de Gruchy's and their vehicles.

Last summer, they explain the truck was a vandal's pellet gun target practice.

The couple swapped parking spots to avoid further damage, but the same thing happened to Julia's vehicle the next day.

The three incidents have the cost the couple thousands in repairs and has them questioning why they were victimized.

Julia believes the spot on the road they recently chose to park is likely a prime target for potential criminals.

"We live in a complex that has a limited number of parking spots available to the unit, so the only option that abides by strata rules is to park on the road [...] We’re trying to find a more secure parking option than the street, but that’s all we can do," she explains, while encouraging other Port Coquitlam commuters that frequently park in Citadel Heights to notify police of any vandalism to their vehicles — big or small.

"We had reported it to RCMP then and chatted with the office, but there isn’t a whole lot they can do with vandalism unfortunately — sounds like it needs to become a really big problem with multiple reports before more action can be taken.

"Park your vehicles in areas that are well travelled and unappealing to thieves/vandals. Secure your belongings and report any suspicious activities you see in your neighbourhood."

She says the fact that the truck is "fairly elevated" off the ground and out of eyesight of nearby homes may also be reasons why their vehicle was targeted.

The de Gruchys are now left worried, once the truck is repaired, that this could happen again given the cost of gas, leaving others "desperate" to save money.

To the person who stole their gas, Julia encourages them to simply ask for help instead of going to criminal lengths.

"We live in an amazing community filled with people who look out for each other and try to help each other… next time you’re desperate, ask for help, you’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll get it."

Tips to prevent gas theft

Coquitlam RCMP say mischief of vehicles can also include thieves stealing catalytic converters.

Thefts of these devices in B.C. climbed from 89 in 2017 to 1,953 in 2021.

And over the same period, the value of ICBC claims for catalytic converters shot up from just over $350,000 to more than $4 million.

Local police list the following tips to avoid potential vehicle mischief:

  • Parking vehicles in areas adequately illuminated by light or areas with lights activated by motion
  • Parking vehicles in secured garages, if at all possible
  • When parking on the street, park in-front of your residence or nearby, while obeying local parking by-laws
  • Utilizing motion-sensitive dash cams, vehicle alarms and residence video surveillance, when possible
  • Reporting any suspicious person(s) or activities to the Coquitlam RCMP, at all hours

Anyone with more information about fuel or catalytic converter theft is encouraged to call Coquitlam RCMP at 604-945-1550.

If you have details in the case of the Port Coquitlam incident above, you can contact the detachment and quote file-number 2022-15610.

- with a file from Jeff Bell, Times Colonist