Nonprofit tries and tries but can't nab gas thief

Nonprofit tries and tries but can't nab gas thief »Play Video
Surveillance video at the nonprofit Portland Habilitation Center captures this man siphoning gas from one of its trucks.

PORTLAND, Ore. - A Portland nonprofit that hires people with disabilities in various fields has been the victim of a gas-siphoning thief for at least the last two years.

Even though there is surveillance video of the thefts at Portland Habilitation Center in Northeast Portland, there isn't a clear picture of the man's face or his vehicle. But the video shows the same guy in every clip with all the equipment he needs to siphon gas and walk away over and over again, draining away thousands of dollars from the nonprofit.

"We've had to put gas in vehicles to make them get to the gas station because they got siphoned dry," said Eric Sitton, the landscape manager at the nonprofit.

The surveillance video shows the man nonchalantly wheeling in gas containers and other equipment. Then he sucks through a tube to start the siphoning process and fills up multiple cans.

The man keeps an eye on the front gate, looking for extra security the company hired since this started. Despite multiple police reports and fingerprints taken, no one has been able to find him.

"It gets frustrating. You get into it a little bit and you’re trying to catch him, but you just can't seem to catch him, and then so it gets frustrating, and we just kind of have to let it go for a little while," Sitton said.

Sitton finally stopped fixing an eight-foot chain link fence out back after the thief cut through it.

"Recently, we left it open with the intent of trying to catch him," he said.

Sitton said he believes the thief parks his car on the other side away from the cameras and climbs in. It's happening enough that a path now leads from the fence to the property. Sitton said it looks like a deer trail.

It's become an expensive problem.

"You see your fuel bills go up from $7,000 to $10,000 and then you're over budget," he said. "I'm hoping someone recognizes him or he sees himself on TV and gets scared and stays away."

For the average person, police recommend getting gas caps that lock. Usually, the thief will look for an easier car to target. But in this case, the company tried that, and the thief just broke them off.

Portland Habilitation Center contacted KATU News after it saw KATU's investigation Tuesday into a separate case of gas theft in Northeast Portland.

In that case surveillance cameras outside West Coast Paper captured a blue van parking next to several vehicles over the past few weeks. Police say the driver siphoned gas from them.

The suspect in that case was driving a 1992 Dodge Caravan with Oregon license plate 712 - BLV.