Even I coulda told Chief Kunkle that these were violent crimes... They keep using 4,000 pound trucks and SUV's to smash the stores while open with customers inside...

Duhhh, Dallas Police weren't allowed to chase them all this time???


North Texas ATM thefts growing in violence, frequency

10:16 PM CDT on Wednesday, June 25, 2008
By STEVE THOMPSON / The Dallas Morning News
stevethompson@dallasnews.com / The Dallas Morning News

They smash stolen cars into convenience stores, tear out cash machines with chains and use lookouts to watch for police. Sometimes they hold clerks at gunpoint.

ATM thieves have struck North Texas harder than any other region in the country recently, Dallas police say. And as they become more organized, numerous and brazen, officials have grown more alarmed, considering them an ever-increasing danger.

"These suspects are frequently armed and display a high level of organization," Chief David Kunkle said in a memo this week. "Their propensity for violence has increased to the point that any ATM-related offense is currently considered a violent crime."

The memo authorizes officers to chase ATM thieves in some cases a measure that since last year has been reserved for those suspected of committing violent felonies.

"In most of these ATM offenses, there are between 4 and 10 suspects involved in at least 3 vehicles, and officers must be aware of a possible ambush," the memo said.

This year in Dallas, at least 70 automated teller machines have been targeted, police say. About 70 more have been hit this year in neighboring cities. While numbers for last year are unavailable, Dallas saw about 77 such crimes in all of 2006.

More disturbing than their growing numbers, though, may be the criminals' evolving MO.

"These guys started off as just doing burglaries of businesses taking ATMs," said Lt. Todd Thomasson, who heads a Dallas police intelligence unit, the Fusion Center. "It moved from that to them doing thefts of ATMs from the business while it was open, and now they're going in sometimes displaying guns, eight to 10 people, hijacking the clerk."

Despite numerous arrests recently, the thefts keep coming.

"I though that we would have a break, but we've had one each of the last two nights," Chief Kunkle said.

Early Tuesday, four men smashed through the glass facade of Nordstrom at NorthPark Center and loaded a small ATM into a Chevy Suburban. They fled the North Dallas mall when a witness approached, and the burned remains of the sport utility vehicle were found about two hours later with the ATM inside.

Early Wednesday, several men broke into a 7-Eleven in northeast Dallas. Police said the men fled when a lookout alerted the robbers to arriving squad cars. They left behind a van and ATM, still wrapped with a chain.
Four men have been arrested in Wednesday's incident, but police say many more remain at large.

"While there's not an organized network, there are what we would call crews that are working together to commit these crimes," Chief Kunkle said.

"From what I understand, the Dallas area has more than other urban areas," he said, "but what you will see happen is, as the word gets out in these other cities, I think you'll see the same kind of spikes in their activity."

Dallas police and officials with the ATM Industry Association organized a meeting this month at police headquarters to discuss the issue with banks, ATM owners and insurance representatives.

Staff writer Tanya Eiserer contributed to this report.