ATMs in stores targeted

By Karen Zautyk
Observer Correspondent

KEARNY – 

2700CEIf you’re a store owner who has an ATM near the front door, you might consider moving it.

In northern New Jersey since August, there have been 12 incidents — including four in the last week — involving smash-and-grab thefts. What gets smashed is a store’s front door, or maybe a picture window. What gets grabbed is an ATM. The whole machine.

The smashing is done with a motor vehicle — usually a Jeep or pick-up truck — which the bandits drive (often backwards) through the glass and into the shop.

Then they load the ATM into it, or another vehicle waiting outside, and make their getaway.

The culprits usually strike in the pre-dawn hours. The amount of money stolen is a lot less than the amount of damage they cause to the premises.

On Saturday, Jan. 24, it was Kearny’s turn.

At 4:47 a.m., KPD Officer Thomas Sumowski responded to a burglar alarm at the Buy Rite Liquor Store on Harrison Ave., near the Walmart. He arrived to find the glass front doors broken and the wall heavily damaged. He also found a green Jeep Cherokee, unoccupied and with its motor running, parked in front, Capt. Stephen Durkin reported. The vehicle, he said, had heavy damage to the rear.

Officers Jay Ward and Dean Gasser also reported to the scene and searched the store, but found no one inside. Checking the Jeep’s license plate, the police discovered the vehicle had been reported stolen in Harrison, apparently just prior to the ATM heist. The owner was contacted and came to the shop to identify his property.

Det. John Plaugic, reviewing security videos, saw the Jeep being backed into the store — twice, Durkin said. Two men, wearing dark hoods and gloves, then removed the ATM, which was just inside the front door, loaded it into a second Jeep Cherokee parked outside and left in that.

Durkin said the amount of money stolen was approximately $2,000.

Three days later, three similar ATM thefts were reported in Essex County. At 4:20 a.m., Tuesday, Jan. 27, when the statewide “blizzard” travel ban was in effect — bandits drove a pick-up truck into the Dunkin’ Donuts on Bloomfield Ave. in Bloomfield. In Newark that same morning, the ATMs in two fast-food restaurants were targeted. One of the restaurant owners estimated the damage to his property at $30,000.

The Essex County Prosecutor’s Office is taking the lead on the ATMheist investigation, Durkin reported, noting, “We are cooperating with them and with other agencies.”

The Kearny crime, he said, “fits a pattern.”

The Observer Staff