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Vacuum dirt robbed last night

D3Dubs

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Last night around 9:30pm we had someone break into the clean-out bins of our vacuum canisters and steal the dirt! I'm assuming they were looking for the loose change and jewelry that gets sucked into the bin. The suspect drove up, cut the zip ties holding the doors shut and dumped the contents into a trash bag. Did this to 3 of our 4 vacuums.

Our cameras are low res so I wasn't able to get a license plate or good face shot but the truck did have some identifying features. It had an extension that goes into the trailer hitch, a cab protector and truck bed tool box. The truck also has possibly after market lights on the roof. 4 big yellow lights on the front of the cab roof and yellow lights in the rear of the roof. The light on the rear of the roof turns on when the door opens and off when it closes. Not sure if this is a feature on this model truck or not but another clue.

The wash is 24/7 and sometimes not attended during the day. We keep the canister doors clasped shut and secured with zip ties. The clasps that hold the door closed can take a pad lock but they are very flimsy metal and someone with a screw driver can twist the clasp and break it very easily. I think this has happened before but not to all three at the same time. In the past I assumed someone vacuumed up something by accident and opened the service door to retrieve, which is fine with me and why I liked the zip tie solution. That said, now that this guy knows how easy it is I'm sure he's going to be back.

JE Adams makes a service door security cover (part 9427K-RETRO) that can be installed retroactively at $150 a pop, so I'm going to order those. I'm also going to get one or two cameras that can get license plates.

This was in northeast MA. I'm attaching a picture of the truck.

Question for the forum: would you bother reporting this to the police? I was thinking bringing some screen shots and just letting them know what happened in case they know the vehicle.
 

I.B. Washincars

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Seriously, I thought you were joking with your title. If I was a dumpster diver type person I would have assumed that the wire tie fastening (which I like) was letting me know it was ok to open them. I think a lot of operators would actually invite this. I definitely would not report it.
 

D3Dubs

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Seriously, I thought you were joking with your title. If I was a dumpster diver type person I would have assumed that the wire tie fastening (which I like) was letting me know it was ok to open them. I think a lot of operators would actually invite this. I definitely would not report it.
I use zip ties not wire ties. When they open the canister they are breaking or cutting the zip ties that hold the latches that hold the doors shut. Often when they shut the door (if they bother to shut it at all) the seal becomes misaligned and now the vacuums don't seal properly. Then I get customer complaints that the suction is weak, which I have to troubleshoot, refund quarters, apologize, etc. If this happens when I'm not there the customer will just leave angry having wasted money on a weak vacuum. It also leaves a mess at the vacuum station, dirt all over the cement that I have to clean up.

I get where you're coming from though. If they replaced the zip ties and made sure it was sealed that would save me from doing one messy job. Unfortunately that courtesy is not given.
 

I.B. Washincars

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I thought that zip tie and wire tie were interchangeable terms that people used for the same thing. My washes rarely go over a few hours without one of us stopping in, except overnight of course. I never got too bent out of shape if a vac was open as long as there was no damage.
 

BBE

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Put some zip ties on your pit grates and see if you get similar results....worth a shot! :)
 

BBE

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Also, we just added the je adams retro lock guard kits to all our vacs at one of our stores....they aren't as slick as advertised, extremely loose. Just begging for someone to put a screw driver behind it and pry it. We were able to tighten them up a little, but still not what we thought we were going to be getting for 150 bucks a piece.
 

Randy

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How often do you clean out your vac’s? We had a guy coming in every few nights on the bicycle pulling a small trailer. He’d pop open the vac doors and clean out all the dirt spread it around on the ground and pick up the change. I called the police and they caught the guy in the act and had a “Come’n to Jesus talk” with him and I never saw him again. To stop the problem we started cleaning out the vac’s every 3 days, the days we go to the car wash. This stopped the dirt bandits. I wouldn’t secure the doors the J.E Adams security bar. If they want to get in they’ll take a pry bar to the door and get in.
 

chaz

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My clean out doors are padlocked....but yeah can be easily opened. I have decals on the doors indicating no money inside. I’ve only had an issue once with a couple prying open the doors, taking what they want and leaving a mess. Finally Caught them live on camera and called the police. I’m located on city lines near a college campus.....three police cars there pretty quick....the folks apparently being a general nuisance in the area....haven’t seen them since.
 

PaulLovesJamie

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would you bother reporting this to the police?
Depends on what the desired outcome is.
In my town, without a license plate &/or clear shot of the persons face, not much can be done so I wouldnt bother reporting it.
However, if I went into the station and told them I'm having a recurring problem with people messing with my equipment, "please keep an eye open", the police are generally happy to have that conversation and will in fact keep a closer eye on things around the wash, including more frequent drive-bys.
Only once did I bring in a video to ask them if they recognized the car, and shockingly they did - "Hey Charlie, here's that stolen car you were looking for!" (yes, really).

On a closely related note, I've mentioned to the police that my lot is a good spot to park for a coffee break or to set up a speed trap, or avoid a sudden hailstorm. Funny how periodic presence of a police car on the property reduces problems.
 

chaz

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How often do you clean out your vac’s? We had a guy coming in every few nights on the bicycle pulling a small trailer. He’d pop open the vac doors and clean out all the dirt spread it around on the ground and pick up the change. I called the police and they caught the guy in the act and had a “Come’n to Jesus talk” with him and I never saw him again. To stop the problem we started cleaning out the vac’s every 3 days, the days we go to the car wash. This stopped the dirt bandits. I wouldn’t secure the doors the J.E Adams security bar. If they want to get in they’ll take a pry bar to the door and get in.
Only at wash every 3 days?! Wow u just have neat customers....I’m at my place twice a day! And on busy days I’m there most of the day. I can take quicks action on issues and keep bays turned over faster
 

D3Dubs

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How often do you clean out your vac’s? We had a guy coming in every few nights on the bicycle pulling a small trailer. He’d pop open the vac doors and clean out all the dirt spread it around on the ground and pick up the change. I called the police and they caught the guy in the act and had a “Come’n to Jesus talk” with him and I never saw him again. To stop the problem we started cleaning out the vac’s every 3 days, the days we go to the car wash. This stopped the dirt bandits. I wouldn’t secure the doors the J.E Adams security bar. If they want to get in they’ll take a pry bar to the door and get in.
We've been cleaning them once a week but will probably start cleaning on Mondays and Fridays.
 

OurTown

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Only at wash every 3 days?! Wow u just have neat customers
There is somebody there everyday at Randy's wash. Those are just the days HE is there.
 

D3Dubs

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Thanks everyone for the feedback. I ended up taking some screen shots to the police station and met with the officer for our town sector. Turns out she is a regular at the car wash who also grew up in the house on the exact lot that our car wash is currently located (small world). She didn't recognize the vehicle. They're going to pay a little extra attention to the wash going forward.

There were mixed recommendations on this forum about whether to go to the police or not. I was on the fence in the beginning but decided to go for a couple reasons. 1. to nip it in the bud, if they're brazen enough to cut a zip tie this week that's not far from prying open the padlock on the coin box next week 2. it is leading to a bad customer experience, dirt left around the canisters, broken seals = bad suction, etc.

Thanks again everyone.
 

cityview

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I find this interesting.

I have someone who comes twice a week. She goes through the vac tanks for change, and dumps them in the trash while she's at it.

I figure its great! Saves me time.

Just curious why you guys try to stop them?
 

MEP001

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Because of the mess they leave, or because they often break the latches or locks getting them open. Or maybe just because they're on private property when they have no business being there. Where do you draw the line - if someone goes into your unlocked car and takes change out of your ashtray, is that any less illegal?
 

cityview

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Fair enough.

It's a legal grey area. Opening up a car is illegal. Dumpster diving is not illegal in most jurisdictions.

Fair enough though. I leave mine all unlocked and know the lady who goes through them by name. She alerts me of any issues brought to her attention and she keeps things tidy.

I saw zip ties in a competitors and I didn't know why, but I guess if you have people
Trashing the place it's a totally different frustrating. In 27 years that's never happened here (knock on wood)

Thanks for the explaining and happy vacuuming!
 

Jeff_L

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We battle this problem a lot, and they aren't nice enough to dump the dirt into the trash nor secure the latch on the door. I must need to train them again.

I used to padlock mine, then got tired of repairing the latches because they are weak and don't hold up to a screwdriver or other tool. When they are padlocked it is breaking/entering and they can be charged, but when there is no lock, it is not against the law (at least in MO).

Honestly, if they are that hard up for money, I would like to catch them in the act and train them how to re-assemble the vacuum so I do not get the calls about poor suction. That way they are doing something for me and getting something in return. Now...do you think they would wash down the bays if I let them keep the change they find on the ground? :)
 

MEP001

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I use zip ties on the top doors just to keep them closed - sometimes the vacuum pulls the door in and the latch just falls unlatched, then when it shuts off the door swings open. I kept the bottom doors zip-tied for years for the same reason (and so a customer could retrieve something without destroying the latch) but finally had to padlock them after someone started going through the vacs and leaving a huge mess.
 

slash007

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Same here, I had them open for year until someone started leaving them open every night after going through them. They didn't leave a mess, but multiple vacs with no suction was a problem. I even took a screen shot of one of them and posted his picture on all of the vacs hoping it would scare him, but he still came back. Guess when your a crack head nothing matters.
 
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