The number of ATMs stolen in Central Alberta is now an even dozen over the last three months, with Caroline the latest community to be targeted by thieves.
A break and enter to the Burger Baron restaurant in Caroline was reported around 2 a.m. on Aug. 17, with a truck being used to pull the ATM completely through the front of the restaurant, causing massive damage. Witnesses got a description of the suspect vehicle — a dark-coloured 1998 GMC Sierra pickup truck — as it fled.
Although Caroline is within Rocky Mountain House RCMP jurisdiction, Innisfail RCMP were contacted regarding the suspect vehicle, which left Caroline heading east on Hwy 54. A nearby Innisfail officer travelling towards Caroline observed the vehicle on Hwy 54, and when the officer turned his vehicle around to engage the suspects, the vehicle sped off at 140 km/h, understood to be the vehicle’s maximum speed.
The two male suspects in the vehicle followed Hwy 54 until reaching its intersection with Hwy 781, at which point the suspects headed north towards Sylvan Lake. A spike belt was deployed on the highway and the suspect vehicle ran over it, flattening its tires, but the pursuit continued all the way into Sylvan Lake.
The two suspects then abandoned the vehicle and Mounties engaged in a foot patrol with the canine unit utilized. RCMP, however, were unable to locate either suspect.
The vehicle, which had been reported stolen, was seized but the stolen ATM was not recovered.
Since June 4, ATM thefts have been reported from Spruce View, Blackfalds, Rimbey, Stettler, Bashaw, Lacombe and now Caroline. There have also been four reported thefts from Red Deer.
Earlier this month, Red Deer RCMP issued a release regarding two of the thefts, which occurred at the Sunnybrook Grocery and iHotel on Aug. 4 and Aug. 9, respectively. In both cases, two males fled the scene in a white truck.
The males were described as wearing black hoodies and being between 20 and 40 years of age.
Cpl. Jeff Hildebrandt of the Innisfail RCMP said in the Caroline case, no suspects were clearly identified.
“Typically these guys target these smaller places in the hopes that either they have a less sophisticated or no video surveillance system entirely,” he said.
Hildebrandt said the spate of thefts suggests the crimes are related.
“We’re taking the perspective that it’s one group that is repeatedly attacking these ATMs. They’re targeting fairly isolated communities in Central Alberta, and then they’re physically removing the ATMs in the break and enters and then taking off.
“There are gross physical tools used to manipulate the device and remove it from the premises physically. Trucks have been used and a lot of damage has been reported with the removal,” he added.
Police do not know how much money the thieves have made off with. Some of the stolen machines have been empty and others have had small amounts of cash inside.
Anyone with information on any of the thefts can contact their local RCMP detachment or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.