Edmonton police have laid charges against a man they say was caught in the act stealing an ATM with a front-end loader, the third bank machine theft in the city in two days.
Police say the man used the loader to break into a Cashco Loans pawn shop at the corner of 55th Street and 137th Avenue at 6:30 a.m. Friday morning before chaining up an automated teller machine and yanking it out of the store. The windows and doors of the store front were demolished and a TV was pushed into the building's ceiling tiles.
A day earlier, an ATM was stolen from another Cashco Loans store at 133rd Street and 114th Avenue in the Westmount neighbourhood. Police say they believe heavy machinery was also used in that robbery.
"We were just there yesterday and all the windows are covered up," said Manuel Caetano, who is in charge of maintenance at the two stores. "They didn't break the doors, thank god. Just the windows on the side."
The suspect in the Friday robbery was charged with break and enter, possession of stolen property over $5,000 and possession of break-in instruments.
Staff Sgt. James Vanderland said no charges have been laid yet on the earlier Westmount theft. But "at this point we believe that they (the two Cashco thefts) are connected," he said.
"Our detectives are trying to talk to the male accused right now and trying to figure that one out," Vanderland added.
Vanderland said an ATM was also stolen from a business in the city's northwest, making it three ATM robberies over the last two days.
In the Friday morning incident, a vehicle that only reaches speeds of 20 km/h didn't make for the greatest of getaway cars.
A passing police cruiser spotted the front-end loader driving in the Homesteader neighbourhood, and a slow-speed chase ensued.
The officer tailed the machine for about 10 blocks before the suspect was apprehended, a police spokesperson said.
The man behind the wheel of the loader finally came to a stop and was arrested without incident near the intersection of 62nd Street and Fort Road. There was an ATM located in the bucket of the loader.
Police say the front-end loader used in the theft had been reported stolen.
Meanwhile, Caetano is now working at repairs to his second store in two days. He said he couldn't believe it when he heard about the second ATM theft, and that a front-end loader was used.
"I just flipped out. Not again," said Caetano. "It's crazy, I mean, at least give us a couple days to warm up."
Caetano estimated the ATM machine stolen Friday contained $5,000, and damages to the store will cost close to $25,000.
Caetano said it's the third time in the past year that a vehicle was used to steal an ATM from the 55th Street and 137th Avenue location.
In October, the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams identified two organized crime rings responsible for a growing number of ATM thefts across the province.
More than 100 charges were laid against seven individuals connected to two separate "theft rings" that targeted rural communities.
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ALERT launched an investigation in partnership with RCMP after thieves targeted more than 130 ATMs in Alberta in the first six months of 2016.
Criminals hit banks, credit unions, gas stations, and convenience stores in more than 60 communities.
"These groups consistently targeted small-town Alberta," Staff Sgt. Dave Knibbs from ALERT said at the time. "They terrorized rural communities and left behind a trail of destruction."