3 arrested in `smash' ATM theft

Carroll incident is similar to 30 in 3 states, police say

December 15, 2007|By Arin Gencer | Arin Gencer,Sun reporter

At three different times in three different places, police in Carroll County discovered a similar scene in the wee hours: a convenience store rammed by a large vehicle and a missing ATM.

This week, a multiagency effort resulted in the arrests of three men in one of the incidents: the Nov. 7 burglary and theft at a High's convenience store on Route 140 in Finksburg, said Maryland State Police.

Rico A. Proctor, 19, of Capitol Heights, Bobby L. Proctor, 22, of Seat Pleasant and Dale K. Proctor, 39, of Washington were charged with burglary and automated-teller-machine theft, police said.

Rico and Bobby Proctor are believed to be brothers, and Dale Proctor is a distant cousin, said Detective Sgt. Chuck Moore of the Westminster barracks.

Moore said investigators are continuing to gather evidence in the other Carroll incidents -- in Keymar on Sept. 12 and in Manchester on Nov. 19.

State police said in a news release that the Carroll incidents might be connected to more than 30 similar commercial burglaries under investigation since July, which span 23 jurisdictions and cross into Pennsylvania and Virginia. More than $180,000 was stolen, and the incidents resulted in more than $1 million in property damage.

The Carroll thieves typically stole a large vehicle -- a van or pickup -- near the store and rammed it into the building, Moore said. They loaded the ATM and then transferred the machine to another vehicle.

Often called a "smash and grab," such thefts are not necessarily rampant, but do seem to crop up at different times, local law enforcement agencies and banking experts said. Howard County police have had four ATM thefts since September.

"It's kind of one person or a group of people mimicking something that they've heard someone else [do]," said Margot Mohsberg, spokeswoman for the American Bankers Association.

Mohsberg described cases in Miami and Texas, where thieves took machines with a bulldozer or by ramming the machines with vehicles.

"About as long as we've had banks ... there's somebody who's bound and determined who's going to go in and get it," said Rob Evans, director of industry marketing for the Ohio-based NCR, which has about 125,000 ATMs across the nation.

ATM thefts date at least to the late 1990s, with an "off-premise boom" in which the majority of machines deployed were free-standing, in such places as convenience stores, coffee shops or pizza parlors, Evans said. About a half-million machines are installed nationwide, he said.

Rural communities seem to be popular targets, Evans said, as thieves zero in on convenience stores with glass fronts -- and an easy view of a machine inside. More recently, construction-heavy Phoenix and Atlanta have been hot spots, Evans added. Criminals have availed themselves of forklifts and front-end loaders on building sites, he said.

An article in a January 2007 issue of ATM & Debit News described several "smash and grab" thefts in Arizona, where more than $500,000 was stolen. Thieves knocked over the machines and loaded them onto flatbed trucks, said Frederick H. Lowe, editor of the weekly trade publication.

While stealing from a bank could yield $2,000 to $3,000, Lowe said, a bank-owned ATM could yield $40,000, Lowe said. Independent, off-premise machines, however, carry varying amounts, depending on the traffic a store sees, he added.

The arrests in the Carroll incidents came after a state police investigation and coordinated efforts with law enforcement from Calvert, Frederick and Prince George's counties, the FBI and others. This week, police watching the men believed that they had stolen a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation truck before hitting a convenience store near the Maryland line.

Early Wednesday, state police from the Westminster and North East barracks kept watch at a wooded area in Baltimore County after locating a car registered to Dale Proctor, according to police. When the men appeared within an hour, troopers confronted them, arresting Rico and Dale Proctor. Bobby Proctor was arrested at his aunt's home in Prince George's County later that night, police said.

arin.gencer@baltsun.com

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