Thieves Pull ATMs From Walls and Inside Buildings, Including Three in One Night in Tacoma

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A credit union's ATM was pulled from its wall mount in downtown Tacoma and left in pieces Sunday. Thieves got away with an undisclosed amount of money.

The brazen attack was one in a rash of attempted and sometimes successful crimes targeting ATMs (automated teller machines) in the South Sound.

The ATM in Sunday's crime was located in the 1700 block of Pacific Avenue on the University of Washington Tacoma campus and belonged to Washington State Employees Credit Union, or WSECU. Photos posted to social media showed the machine torn to bits.

"The only loss, in addition to the equipment damage, was a small amount of cash, which will not impact any member," said WSECU spokesperson Ann Flannigan. "They will have their funds."

No member data was exposed during the theft, and no checks were in the machine, she said.

"The thieves were able to access the section of the machine where members' deposits are stored, but not the 'safe' or section that stores cash for dispensing withdrawals," Flannigan said.

In that crime, a witness called 911 at 11:48 p.m. when they saw someone using a pickup truck to separate the cash-dispensing machine from the wall of a building, according to Tacoma police spokesperson Wendy Haddow. Another witness saw the thieves, who appeared to be men, wearing ski masks and using tools.

Although it's unknown if the perpetrators are the same in other ATM burglaries and thefts in Tacoma, Lakewood, Puyallup and Fife, the details are similar.

RASH OF ATM CRIMES

In Tacoma in January alone, Haddow said, seven ATMs were targeted in thefts and burglaries.

On Monday, just 45 minutes after the crime on the UWT campus, thieves hit another ATM in the 7000 block of Pacific Avenue. The descriptions of the thieves and their vehicle matched the earlier crime. Less than an hour later, possibly the same group attempted to take an ATM in the 3700 block of Pacific Avenue.

A free-standing ATM was stolen Dec. 26 from a Puyallup bar, according to Puyallup police spokesperson Capt. Ryan Portmann.

The police officer who responded to the scene in the 4100 block of South Meridian found the front doors of the business pried open and the formerly bolted-in ATM missing, apparently drug out by a vehicle.

"In the immediate area of the front door on the sidewalk there were multiple broken pieces of the ATM and a large roll of ATM receipt paper," the offer wrote in his report.

Losses are more than just the cash inside the machines.

The smaller, free-standing or "lobby" ATMs cost from $1,000 to $10,000, according to Business News Daily. Through-the-wall ATMs, like the one destroyed in the WSECU theft, can cost up to $40,000.

Many ATMs are owned and serviced by a vendor. That's the case in the WSECU theft. The demolished ATM is owned and operated by NextBranch.

Flannigan said a new ATM would be in place as soon as repairs to the wall in the UWT building are made.