By Mark F. Gray, Staff Writer, mgray@afro.com 

The rash of attempted thefts of automatic teller machines in Prince George’s County continued in Mt. Rainier when another truck rammed into the front of a 7-Eleven convenience store April 17.  It was the fourth time since March 13 that thieves tried to escape with the cash dispensers.

Prince George’s County Police say the incidents are linked and may be a part of a larger crew that has made attempts to steal ATMs from convenience stores in the District and Montgomery County as well.  Law enforcement authorities from all three jurisdictions are collaborating on the investigation.

“We believe the four cases that occurred in Prince George’s County are linked,” said Prince George’s County police officer Ameera Abdullah.

There have been four robbery attempts in Prince George’s County.  (Courtesy Photo)

The store’s surveillance video captures what appears to be a black truck backing into the store just before 3:30 a.m. according to Mt. Rainier police. Three men dressed in all black entered the store – in the 2300 block of Varnum Street – and assaulted a clerk, before attempting to load the ATM machine onto the back of the truck. However, the robbery went awry when the assailants were unable to remove the machine from the store and escaped in the empty vehicle.

This robbery attempt follows the pattern of three previous incidents in a series of what authorities have now described as “crash and grab” burglaries that target ATMs at Prince George’s County convenience stores. However, the difference in this case was that these potential thieves were conscious to keep their identities concealed by wearing masks and staying out of clear view of the cameras.

There have been four ATM robbery attempts in the County in March and April.  In each case the robbers stick to a similar script. The Prince George’s County convenience stores were hit March 13, April 3, April 10 and April 17.  At this point the robbers are “batting .500” with two successful thefts and two that failed.

“Three suspects, at least, we believe drive a pickup truck to the location, drive it through the business and attempt to take the ATM,” Abdullah said. “Either they are successful or not. In this case, they were not successful.”

As the investigations continue authorities have discovered evidence that may have established a link between the cases. A stolen truck was recovered from one of the past attempts and to this no one has been fatally hurt in the attempted burglaries.  The thieves appear to be targeting 7-Eleven stores particularly since most have ATM machines and the incidents have taken place in early morning hours between 2-4 a.m.

On February 17 four men tried to steal an ATM from a Silver Spring, Maryland 7-Eleven.  That surveillance video captured a pickup truck smashing into the front store window and three men trying to escape with the machine using a hand truck.  That effort was thwarted when the ATM fell off into the parking lot, forcing them to leave empty handed.  However, the pickup used to crash into the building was later recovered in Hyattsville.

Since this is not the type of crime that happens often and the individuals behind the latest spree in Mt. Rainier were careful to conceal their identities from video cameras that are focused on the interior and exterior of this particular convenience store, they have not been identified.

“They’re masked up so you don’t really get to see much of what they look like, so I think they’ve taken some steps to hide their identities more so than most,” Abdullah said.

Police have begun increasing patrols near convenience stores throughout the County in an effort end the threat of ATM robbery attempts.