Vancouver man threatened with fine for fuel spill caused by gas thieves who broke into his tank

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A Vancouver business owner says he's been repeatedly targeted by thieves, who have vandalized his company's vehicles. And to add insult to injury, the city threatened to fine him over one of these break-ins. Jill Bennett explains. – Jan 19, 2020

Christopher Tiner was already fired up after discovering his work van had been targeted by gas thieves who punctured his fuel tank Friday, leaving him to cover the repair costs.

But the Vancouver construction worker says he’s been threatened with paying even more by the City of Vancouver, who told him he could face a fine unless he cleans up the fuel spill the thieves created.

Tiner says he discovered the punctured fuel tank Saturday when he was finally able to access his van, which had been snowed in at his home for days.

READ MORE: Gas tank thefts on the rise after Surrey man catches another alleged fuel theft on video

“They basically took most of it,” he said about the gas in the 60-litre tank. The rest, he said — “about five litres” — had spilled onto the street.

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When he contacted the city, Tiner says he was told it was up to him to clean up the spill in 10 days. The exact dollar amount he would face was not disclosed.

While he was lucky to have the tools and knowledge to clean the spill himself, Tiner is worried about the average homeowner who would have to hire someone else for the job.

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“If someone contracted me, at minimum something like this, with no snow, would be close to $2,000 plus disposal,” he said.

“I’m just so frustrated. It doesn’t seem like there’s anyone else to complain to about this.”

That appears to include Vancouver police, who Tiner says told him officers would make a report but that there “wasn’t a lot they could do” without security footage.

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Vancouver police couldn’t comment on Tiner’s specific case Sunday but said they will generally only respond to a theft report if it’s in progress.

READ MORE: Metro Vancouver gas is so expensive, someone drilled it out of this man’s tank

If the call is made after the fact, a spokesperson said, police will still make a report yet won’t respond with the same urgency.

But Tiner says police need to have a larger presence in the neighbourhood, which features a nearby park and school and has seen other criminal behaviour recently.

“Two weeks ago my truck windows were smashed out, my neighbour’s vehicle was broken into,” he said. “Last year the house on the corner was broken into and cleaned out.

“If you drive a kilometre west there’s a larger police presence there, and that neighbourhood is reportedly safer. It’s definitely frustrating.”

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The lack of police presence coupled with the city’s expectation to cover clean-up costs has Tiner wondering what his tax dollars are paying for.

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“With my business taxes, my personal income taxes, and now property tax increases, where’s the receipt?” he asked.

“We’ve got to do all these other things, they want us to start a block watch, but now their budgets are increasing 10-fold and we still need to fork out more money to help them do their job. So when do things change?”

READ MORE: With Metro Vancouver gas prices topping $1.60/L, Langley thieves drill it out of people’s tanks

Vancouver city council recently approved a seven per cent property tax hike as part of its 2020 budget. The city originally suggested an 8.2 per cent tax bump.

In an email, the city said it also couldn’t speak to Tiner’s specific case but that generally spills are cleaned up by city crews if the fuel forms a slick on the street.

If the spill is on the boulevard, it is up to the homeowner to clean up the spill.

The spokesperson did not address whether the rules change if the spill is created by a theft outside the homeowner’s control.

READ MORE: Gas theft hits Okanagan city’s vehicles

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With no sign that the thieves who created the spill and damaged his truck will be caught, Tiner says he’s feeling the pressure of living in Vancouver.

“I feel overworked,” he said.

“It’s not easy to be young, running a business, having to work a second job just to keep things moving. The taxes they keep implementing, along with their involvement in the community, is super unhelpful.”

—With files from Jill Bennett

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