ATMs targeted after stolen trucks plow into Dallas, Lowndes Coun - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

ATMs targeted after stolen trucks plow into Dallas, Lowndes County stores

A damaged ATM rests on the ground. (Source: WSFA 12 News) A damaged ATM rests on the ground. (Source: WSFA 12 News)
Damage to the store in Dallas County (Source: WSFA 12 News) Damage to the store in Dallas County (Source: WSFA 12 News)
The stolen truck used to steal the ATM in Dallas County. (Source: WSFA 12 News) The stolen truck used to steal the ATM in Dallas County. (Source: WSFA 12 News)
Damage to the store in Mosses (Source: WSFA 12 News) Damage to the store in Mosses (Source: WSFA 12 News)
DALLAS COUNTY, AL (WSFA) -

Businesses in rural areas of Dallas and Lowndes Counties were left with thousands of dollars in damage after trucks were driven into the front of the stores in order to get to the ATM machines.

Two very similar burglaries happened in the Safford community of Dallas County and Mosses in Lowndes County in a matter of hours and investigators are exploring the possibility that the crimes are connected.

Sometime between 10 p.m. on Tuesday and 5 a.m. on Wednesday, someone broke into the Z-Tec convenience store on Highway 5 in Safford. An employee reporting in for her early morning shift on Wednesday found the front of the store heavily damaged and called 911.

"Last night, they broke in and totaled everything with a truck. They backed the truck up and went right through it. They pulled out the ATM with a chain and went through the burglar bars and everything. Even the phone lines were cut," said Dushyant Patel, the owner.

Officials in the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department say a Ford F-450 utility truck was stolen from a propane company in Montgomery and backed into the store in Safford.

The suspect or suspects chained the ATM machine, located right inside the front door, to the truck and ripped it out of the ground. It was taken a short distance away to a dirt road.

The stolen truck was then used to ram the ATM repeatedly until it broke open, exposing the cash inside. The truck and battered ATM were left behind and later recovered by authorities.

"We learned that a truck was used to drive through the front part of the store. When the truck entered the store, it actually got a chain and hooked to the ATM machine and snatched it out of the store," said Captain Mike Granthum. "They drove down the road a little bit with the ATM dragging behind it and took the ATM to a tree. They set the ATM up against the tree and used the front part of the truck to ram the ATM until it was open. Of course, they removed all of the money."

Surveillance video from the business has been sent to the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences for analysis.

The owner was busy cleaning up all of the debris with a crew of helpers throughout the day on Wednesday. He said he is tired of his store being targeted by thieves. It’s the second time in the past week his business was burglarized. Late last week, he said lots of cigarettes and money were taken.

 "I want these people caught and punished real good so this doesn’t happen again," Patel said Wednesday as he looked at the gaping hole in the front of his store. "At least this happened when we were closed and nobody was hurt. That’s the main thing. We’re going to rebuild everything back the way it was. We’re working on it."

Police reports indicate that this time around, his security doors and frame were damaged, along with the glass front doors and frame, ATM machine, cash register, front entry wall, and a 40-inch television. An unknown amount of currency was stolen.

Dallas County investigators say they’re working closely with Montgomery police on the stolen truck. They're also collaborating with the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office after the same type of burglary happened at Mosses Meat Market overnight.

The front of the store was damaged by a truck and the suspect or suspects took the ATM. Security footage has been turned over to investigators.

Officials are exploring a possible connection between the cases. They believe two different stolen trucks were used in the burglaries.

"It was a similar motive the way they did it. A truck was also used in that. The business was breached by driving into the store and an ATM was taken in that burglary also," Cpt. Granthum said. "We’re not sure if they’re connected yet but they’re similar and it’s a mighty big coincidence that they were so close. Everybody is working together and we’re going to get to the bottom of it."

A few weeks ago, the same thing happened at a grocery store in Hayneville. According to investigators, the culprit or culprits tried to get away with the ATM but they were unsuccessful because of the way it was bolted into the floor. A front portion of the store was torn off in the process. All of the cases remain under investigation.

Copyright 2017 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved. 

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