A number of AUB students recently reported finding their cars with punctured fuel tanks emptied of gas, as their vehicles were parked on AUB’s seaside. With insurance not covering the expenses of the repairs, students were forced to pay bills of up to $1,050. Meanwhile, the perpetrators are still at large, and authorities have yet to take adequate preventative measures.
Among the targeted vehicles were three different Nissan cars, a Honda, a Renault, and a Peugeot. The fuel thieves clearly singled out larger models, which are easier to handle than smaller ones. All the cars had plastic reservoirs, and in some cases, the gas reservoir was punctured.
“It was explained to me that it was done using an electric drill on a stick, which means that this is pure vandalism,” said business student Anas Aboul Hosn. “Whoever did this didn’t intend to steal the fuel – if they did, they would have come prepared and we wouldn’t have had such a big fuel puddle around the car.”
With chemical engineering student Sandra Saad, however, there was no reservoir-puncturing. “They [removed] a pipe and I didn’t notice whether there was a fuel puddle or not,” she said. “I only noticed that I had an empty tank when I started driving but it was fortunately enough to get me home.”
So is it fuel-theft or vandalism? Architecture student Andrea Choufani recounted her story to Outlook, saying, “I left campus through the Hostler Gate around 10:30 PM. When I got to my car which was parked nearby, I noticed the shadow of someone moving.”
Riddled with the feeling that something fishy was happening, Choufani quickly got into her car. “I looked outside and there was someone hiding in the telephone booth. I took off immediately,” she continued. “I got to Downtown and that was when someone honked at me and pointed out that my car was leaking fuel. I stopped at the nearest gas station I could find and that’s when I made the link between the leak and the guy hiding in the phone booth – he didn’t have enough time to finish the job which is why I had some fuel left in the tank.”
Another source got even closer to the perpetrators and reported having seen the two individuals allegedly behind these untimely “car troubles” trying to sell fuel at the gas station near Manara.
A couple of students spoke out on the popular “AUB GURU” Facebook group, which contains over 9000 members of the AUB community. Civil engineering student William Moujaes, for instance, said his car has already been targeted twice.
Although nobody is certain of what’s going on, most can agree on two things, the first being that the incidents are happening too frequently. This is confirmed by the fact that the car dealer Rymco reported having received five cars from that area in the week of March 16 alone. The second consensus is on the need to take measures that would put an end to these thefts.
Rymco also received two cars on the night of March 23, two of the three cars that were emptied of their fuel while parked in the area near Ain el Mreisseh on that night.
The series of incidents generated widespread speculation among the student body regarding security procedures outside campus boundaries. After being notified about the suspicious acts, the AUB protection office pointed out that while this did not happen within the university, they will look into it anyway.
Dean of Student Affairs, Talal Nizameddin, who is currently out of the country said, “I am very sorry to hear about this terrible theft that seems to only highlight the breakdown in law and order. Nonetheless we have to cooperate with the police and we expect they will respond with urgency and professionalism to stop the crime and apprehend these fuel thieves.”
The Ras Beirut police station at the end of Bliss Street (previously known as Makhfar Hbeish by the locals) has been informed as well.
“My car has been emptied of its fuel over a week ago so when I passed by a Juke [Nissan] parked on a fuel puddle, I immediately knew what happened,” said business student Ziad Ashkar.
“I went to the police station where we tried to unsuccessfully contact the car owner. I was told that a patrol would be sent to the scene. I waited for over 40 minutes for the car owner to come back and the patrol to show up but neither happened.”
Outlook was able to get in touch with over a dozen students whose cars were victims of these fuel-thieves. So far, two students reported being targeted twice, meaning they were forced to pay the expensive repair bills both times.
The fuel thefts are believed to have started earlier this month, around the same time when such complaints became more frequent on social media and by word of mouth.
Yet biology student Charbel Gharios testifies that his car fuel was stolen on the very first day of the Spring 2015 Semester (January 26). Like Moujaes, engineering student Ibrahim Nasser also had his car emptied of fuel twice, the first time being in September.
In the wake of all of these reports, various questions remain unanswered, including why safety measures have yet to been implemented, and what students can do to protect themselves and their cars from being the next victims.