October 13, 2016 - 9:00 PM
KAMLOOPS - At least four businesses in Kamloops have had their ATMs targeted in the past year and some business owners believe the same people are behind all four.
Gary Miller, owner of Miller’s Crossing in Savona, says his store was broken into in the early morning hours of Sept. 21. In less than seven minutes, the thieves had pulled up to the store, sawed through the front door, smashed the window and taken the ATM.
“These guys will get caught,” Miller says. “They were unhurried, but they were going at a business-like pace.”
Miller said two men got out of a dark-coloured SUV around 3:30 a.m. They were dressed in dark clothing ball caps and hoodies. He says one man had a balaclava on. The machine was recovered from a remote road a few days later. Miller said it had been doused in kerosene and set on fire.
He doesn’t think his store has been the only target for these suspects. He believes most, if not all, of the other ATM thefts in and around Kamloops were executed by the same suspects: two to three men in dark clothing travelling in a dark-coloured SUV.
“They were the same ones who did the Wildlife Park two nights earlier,” Miller alleges.
This hasn’t been confirmed by RCMP and so far, there’s no hard evidence linking the crimes. Kamloops RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Jodi Shelkie says they can’t fully rule out a link between all of the thefts in the past year.
Since November 2015, the Save On Foods in Westsyde, the B.C. Wildlife Park, Eagle Point Golf Club and the Petro Canada in Rayleigh have had their ATMs targeted. Reports suggest machines at Thompson Rivers University have also been targeted.
“There’s always a chance. The (method) is similar,” Shelkie says. “There’s no evidence linking them, but the MO is similar.”
Shelkie says the detachment is getting closer to identifying who the suspects behind these thefts are.
PROTECTING YOUR BUSINESS
Miller has taken steps to make sure when the new Miller’s Crossing ATM arrives, it won’t be targeted.
He says the cashbox of the old machine didn’t have a locking mechanism, but the new one will. Miller will be securing the rest of the machine with combination locks and there will be no cash kept in the store when it’s closed.
Shelkie says those are good steps to take, but more needs to be done. Most businesses have working surveillance cameras that police can extract footage from. In these thefts, Shelkie says, the surveillance footage was so poor police can’t identify which make or model of SUV the vehicle is.
“That’s why we can’t say it’s a dark Ford Explorer or a dark Jeep,” Shelkie says. “We can’t even tell what it is.”
There is a possibility these suspects canvasses the businesses before stealing the ATMs, Shelkie says.
“In my opinion, and this is totally my opinion, it’s premeditated,” she says. “There’s absolutely nothing to suggest they’ve gone in the day before… to look at it. No evidence to that whatsoever. However, it appears that they may have.”
She suggests business owners begin keeping track of license plate numbers belonging to vehicles that could match the description of a dark-coloured SUV.
"If their ATM is stolen they can say ‘yesterday there was a dark SUV here and here is the license plate number’ and we can look it up," Shelkie says. "It may be a casual citizen going in to buy his fishing license... or it could be a tip that links us to who the person was."
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