KING COUNTY, Wash. — Multiple ATM thefts have been reported across the Puget Sound region this year. Thieves have been using vehicles to break into the front of the buildings, leaving business owners to clean up the mess and pay for repairs.
"They're in, they're out, they're doing it under the cover of darkness, and then we're left literally picking up the pieces along with our communities,” said King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) Captain Tim Meyer.
Meyer said Wednesday the KCSO is investigating at least seven ATM thefts so far this year. Meyer said thieves used a vehicle to break into the stores in all of the cases the department is investigating. Many of the vehicles used to break into the stores are stolen.
All of the incidents the KCSO is investigating happened at gas stations, convenience stores and a liquor store. The thefts are under investigation, but Meyer said no suspects have been arrested at this time.
The latest apparent smash and grab ATM theft happened early Thursday morning at a Walgreens on the 4400 block of Rainier Ave S in Seattle’s Columbia City neighborhood. The front of the building was completely destroyed, and KING 5 crews saw pieces of a broken vehicle light in the front of the building.
Photos and video from the scene show an ATM that was inside the building broken into pieces.
The Seattle Police Department on Thursday released pictures of the potential suspects tied to at least six ATM thefts in the city, including Thursday morning's incident. The suspects wore ski masks in all of the thefts but detectives are hoping someone has information to share.
“It's just the damage and destruction, for really like, you know, at best, maybe a few hundred, a few thousand dollars that might be in these ATMs," said Meyer.
And it’s not just King County. Other agencies are also investigating ATM thefts in Snohomish and Pierce counties.
Thieves used a truck to smash into the front of a Tacoma Walgreens early Monday morning and stole from an ATM inside. The Tacoma Police Department (TPD) responded just before 3:30 a.m. to the 2000 block of Sixth Avenue and found an abandoned truck that had been used to smash into the front of the Walgreens.
Officers discovered the thieves had then broken into the ATM inside the business, stealing an undisclosed amount of money before leaving in a second vehicle. The regional manager for Walgreens estimated the damage to the Tacoma store at around $50,000.
Last week, thieves smashed into the front of a Walgreens in Renton in an attempt to steal the ATM inside. They failed to get the machine but left behind heavy damage to the building.
On Feb. 20, Ken’s Market in Seattle’s Phinney Ridge neighborhood was hit by ATM thieves who used a forklift to remove the machine. The suspects loaded the ATM into the back of a pickup truck and fled.
Meyer has a message for anyone committing these crimes, original perpetrators and copycats alike.
“We will crack these crimes as we do with the others," said Meyer. “Those detectives work collaboratively with our neighboring agencies, we are going to get this locked down. We are going to get those folks and get them into custody.”