Criminals target San Diego autism school... for the 3rd time

Siphon gas, cause $800 in damages
Posted at 11:22 PM, Feb 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-16 19:08:44-05

OCEAN BEACH, Calif. — Criminals targeted a school in Ocean Beach, costing it money that should be going to children with special needs.

Pioneer Day School specializes in teaching practical life skills to students with autism. They recently installed security cameras after a series of thefts.

This is the third time 10News has reported on crime at this school. 


"When I saw it on video I wanted to jump in and snatch them up," founder Jim Leiner said.

Staff member Nate Herzog reviewed their security system and found video of two men walking up to the school vans and siphoning gas.

"They figured out how to take off our locking gas caps," Herzog said. "I was like 'What are they doing? Oh, there comes the hose out of his hoodie.' And the next thing you know he's siphoning the gas from one of our vehicles."

Leiner says they hit another school van, nicknamed "Big Blue" even harder.

"They couldn't get this [gas cap] off because it locks," Leiner said. "There's a fuel line that goes to your fuel tank, and they sliced that open and put their container there."

The small cut cost them hundreds of dollars to replace.

"We have so many other things we could spend $500 or $600 on," Leiner said. "A student having money to get French fries is practice making a purchase in a restaurant."

The vans take them around town to practice life skills and was full of kids when the damage was discovered. Herzog said it upset a lot of students.

"If their routine changes, it could be really bad for them. They might start having aggressive behavior because they can't get their needs met," Herzog said. "Filling up the gas and it's leaking everywhere. Six students, six staff, and yeah, I'm just glad it wasn't a lot worse than it was."

They hope the security video is enough to put the criminals in jail.

"I hope it stops and I would love to stop watching surveillance video of people doing some terrible stuff to our school," Herzog said.

"I just felt so hopeful that we were going to be able to find them," Leiner said.

San Diego Police say if they catch the men in the video, they could face charges of theft and vandalism.