Thieves drill local businesses for quick cash

No fewer than three area businesses have been drilled in the last month.  - Brett Cihon
No fewer than three area businesses have been drilled in the last month.
— image credit: Brett Cihon

Thieves using electric drills have found a way to make a quick buck off local car washes and gas stations.

Self-serve vacuum machines and air compressors at three Port Orchard businesses were burgled in March. Under the cover of darkness, thieves drilled through the locks of vending machines, stealing the change inside.

No arrests have been made, PO Police Commander Geoffrey Marti said.

Often times, the damage to the vending machine is more costly than the actual amount of money taken, said Greg Hulse, the general Manager of Olympic Car Wash on Bethel Road.

“It costs me $25 to replace the locks that they bust for $10 in quarters,” he said.

Two of Olympic’s four vacuum machines were drilled into on Saturday night, he said. Thieves made off with about $30 in quarters, though the exact amount is difficult to tell.

It’s hard to find locks strong enough to deter a drill, Hulse said, meaning thieves can usually steal the change if they want it bad enough. He said the best way to deter the crooks is to empty the money from the machines every day.

Joe Hu, the owner of the Shell Gas Station on Mile Hill Drive, lost more than $150 when thieves broke into his air compressor on March 25. Hu, who had left the change collector unchecked for two months, said he wasn’t even aware money had been taken until a customer went to use the machine and told him it was broken. Since then he has emptied the money out of the air compressor every day.

“I keep a sign on it now that says ‘emptied daily,’” he said.

Hu believes the thefts are done by the same person, or group of individuals, who are keen on drilling in to all the vending machines in the area. Similar to Hulse, he is more perturbed with how much money it costs to replace the lock than the amount of money stolen. It takes at least four hours to fix the locks after they are drilled. It eats at the day, he said.

Hu has owned the Shell Station for eight years. When he first bought the store, a vandal ripped out the entire air compressor, causing close to $1,000 in damage.

The owner of Cruise-N Carwash & Detail Center, Bill Goodwin, said he sees more theft now than at any time since he opened the carwash on Bethel Road in 1999. In March thieves popped off the casing on his air freshener vending machine. They also broke a window at an espresso stand on his property, causing $100 in damage to make off with $8 in change.

He empties the change from his vending machines every day, but said he still can’t figure out a way to deter thieves.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s chump change,” he said. “The attitude today is something is better than nothing and if you catch me so what if you do.”

Marti said there has not been a noticeable increase of vending machine theft inside the city, but others have also recently been hit.


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