ATMs targeted by thieves 4 times in 2 months

Thieves broke into the Shell gas station in Bloomfield, P.E.I., RCMP say, and stole an ATM around 2:00 a.m. Monday — the latest in a string of such incidents on P.E.I. since November.

'It's pretty unbelievable. You think it can never happen'

'It's pretty unbelievable,' says Bloomfield Shell owner Mark Thrasher of the break-in. (Submitted by Mark Thrasher)

Another ATM has been stolen on P.E.I., RCMP say.

Suspects broke into the Shell gas station in Bloomfield, P.E.I., and stole the ATM around 2 a.m. Monday. 

I don't know if these guys realize the traumatic effect they have on the kids who work here.— Mark Thrasher, store owner

The store's front door was smashed and a cable hooked around the machine to pull it through the front door of the convenience store, police said. They believe it was then loaded into a vehicle.  

This is the fourth similar incident on P.E.I. in the last two months — an ATM was taken from the Mount Stewart Irving earlier this month and one stolen from a convenience store in O'Leary in November, police said. There was an attempt to steal a bank machine in Wellington in December, but suspects weren't able to remove the machine.

The RCMP Major Crime Unit, police dog services and forensic identification units were called to the scene in Bloomfield to assist with the investigation.

"We know that there is quite a bit of it going on in and around the Maritimes," said Cpl. Craig Eveleigh with the L. Division Major Crime Unit. "There's been a couple in Nova Scotia. A couple in New Brunswick and four here in the last couple of months on P.E.I." 

Similarities in Maritime ATM crimes?

Island RCMP are working with police in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, Eveleigh added, "to see if there's any similarities there that we can make a connection with regards to any kind of evidence so we hopefully identify some kind of suspect here."

RCMP Cpl. Craig Eveleigh holds a wire cable police say was used in the theft of an ATM from the Bloomfield Shell early Monday. (Krystalle Ramlakhan/CBC)

Mark Thrasher, who owns the gas station in Bloomfield with his wife Alberta Saunders, said when they started hearing about the recent ATM thefts the couple talked about preventing such an incident. 

"Can't believe it happened," said Thrasher. 

The couple has had the store since 1991 and the family has owned the business since the early 1940s. Thrasher said he's only aware of one other break-in at the store. 

'Fairly traumatic'

"It's fairly traumatic. I wasn't here for the first break in so this is actually our first break-in. It's pretty unbelievable. You think it can never happen, but," said Thrasher. 

The whole incident will cost about $10,000, said Thrasher — that includes damage to the store, replacing the ATM and the money inside, which was about $1,800.

He said the theft has also shaken up staff.

"We have younger staff. I don't know if these guys realize the traumatic effect they have on the kids who work here," Thrasher said. 

"They worry that it might happen when the store's open, so makes it hard for us to keep staff," said Thrasher. 

Bloomfield Shell owner Mark Thrasher cleans up broken glass after the store's door was smashed and an ATM taken. (Submitted by Mark Thrasher)

Police are trying to determine whether the P.E.I. incidents are related, watching surveillance tape from convenience stores to see if there are any consistencies or similarities in the incidents.  

"It is quite a feat to haul it [an ATM] out. It's done in under a couple of minutes so it's in, break the door, wrap the cable, take the machine right out through the door and load it in the vehicle and go," said Eveleigh. 

"We have a very small window of opportunity to actually catch these guys in the act," he said — that's why police are asking for help identifying the people in pictures and video they have released. 

The RCMP Major Crime Unit asks anyone with any information about this most recent theft or the whereabouts of the ATM machine to contact them.