Blowtorches used in ATM theft spree

May 21, 2008 4:05:07 PM PDT
Philadelphia police are investigating 10 break-ins, where the burglars' intention was to access an ATM inside the building. Detectives say the crooks do so by breaking through the wall of a vacant property next door. Then, they use a blowtorch to get into the ATM and get away with thousands of dollars in cash. "In every single one of these incidents, the machine was torched using a blowtorch," according to Chief Inspector William Colarulo of the Philadelphia Police.

A vandalized ATM inside 1859 North Van Pelt Street looks like a hunk of charred and mangled metal. Of course, the money inside is also missing. A few blocks away, another ATM inside a convenience store at 3100 North 15th St. bears the burn marks made what police believe to be very same team of burglars.

"What they do is target businesses that are adjacent to a vacant lot," Colarulo said.

This is the burglars' modus operandi: late at night, they knock a hole in the wall between the vacant lot or property and the inside of the store, then they crawl their way in. Once inside, they use the blowtorch to burn their way into the ATM, in some cases, getting away with hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash.

The burglars broke into the store on North 15th twice, once in January and again exactly one month later.

"The fact that we have ten ATM's burglarized in this manner, and we're talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars plus the fact that they are using a torch that could start fires to adjoining properties, that's of great concern to us," Colarulo said.

The ten targeted cash machines are all over the city. Just four days ago, they hit one in West Kensington and that time the burglars painted the windows black to conceal the glow of their blowtorch. They made off with over $120,000 dollars in cash.