SOUTH WINDSOR, Conn. — A multi-town investigation is underway to capture brazen ATM thieves. Investigators say the same set of criminals is likely responsible for smash and grab attempts across Connecticut. FOX61 has confirmed ATM thefts or attempted thefts in Plainville, East Hartford, South Windsor, Wethersfield, and North Branford.
It all may have started in North Branford on Thursday where two service stations were hit by a vehicle matching the same description. But service stations across the state have seen their ATMs become recent targets.
"Crime is on the rise. It’s everywhere," said Wethersfield Police Chief James Cetran. Under the cover of darkness, brazen thieves besieged service stations in close to half a dozen Connecticut communities Friday in search of ATMs.
Swaranjit Singh Khalsa knows these crimes all too well. His ATM was stolen from his Shell Starion in Norwich mid-pandemic. "It’s a scary thing. Sometimes you feel like you are not even safe," said Khalsa. "Now I have tightened up security. I have a better security alarm and I’ve spent some money to make this place more secure," he said.
In the early hours of Friday, police say thieves hit this Valero Service Station in South Windsor. A black and silver pickup rammed the service station. That ATM was later discovered in Wethersfield where police say two other unsuccessful ATM thefts were attempted. At Cumberland Farms where the door was broken in. And at a Mobil Gas where some cigarettes were stolen.
"The typical M.O. for that is they back into the front window and door and smash it out, throw a chain around the ATM, and pull the chain and the ATM machine out and drag it. It’s done in less than 60 seconds,' explained Cetran.
Cyber Security experts told FOX61 ATMs are also the target of technological crime. Skimmer scanners that can steal your credit card information. But the innovation of chip cards is making those types of thefts more difficult.
"I think what’s happening is bad guys are saying, hey, ATMs are where the money is. We can’t use these skimmers so effectively any more people are using chip cards so now they are just stealing the entire ATM machine itself," explained Frederick Scholl, a cybersecurity expert at Quinnipiac University.
Scholl went on to say he believes ATM thefts are largely connected to gangs and organized crime because he said it’s just too complicated for a petty criminal to pull off alone without any expertise in hacking.
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