Public urged to be wary in wake of ATM thefts

Thieves steal cash machines three times in recent months

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SAN ANTONIO – In the wake of recent thefts of three automatic teller machines, the public is being asked to keep an eye out for unusual construction sites, particularly in the middle of the night.

"(Watch for) the transportation or the movement of a forklift or any kind of construction equipment," said San Antonio police spokesman Officer Douglas Greene. "That seems kind of odd, because typically they don't work during that time of the day."

Greene made the appeal after the theft of an ATM early Tuesday morning from a parking lot in the 1400 block of Austin Highway. He said it appears that a group of people worked together to commit the crime, using a forklift stolen from a nearby construction site to knock the machine off its base.

The crooks also used the forklift to lift the ATM into the bed of a pickup, police said, but they didn't get far.

Officers found the stolen machine that was abandoned in the bed of a stolen pickup not far from the crime scene.

Investigators believe that the criminals might have been frightened off, possibly by the sound of officers approaching.

"One we looked at the ATM, it does not appear that the individuals were able to make access to the ATM, so no money was stolen," Greene said.

The tactic that they used is one that police have seen several times lately.

Police responded in late February to a theft at the Huebner Oaks Shopping Center and found a forklift, still running, just steps from where a cash machine once stood.

The criminals got away with the machine.

But some crooks weren't so lucky two days later at a credit union in Windcrest.

Officers said the stolen ATM apparently fell off the back of the truck as the criminals made their escape.

"We think that there's a lot of planning that's taken place before this crime is committed," Greene said. "There's a team of people that are involved in this. There are people that have to know how to operate this machinery, and then also people that have to act as lookouts."

Greene said what investigators don't know is whether the cases are connected, or perhaps committed by copycats.

Anyone with information on the thefts is asked to call the San Antonio Police Department at 210-207-7273 or Crime Stoppers at 210-224-STOP (7867).

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