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Phillips: Take the money and run
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Here in the Chronicle-Independent newsroom, we’re kind of shaking our collective head about the news which broke Tuesday about the early-morning heist of a complete automatic teller machine (ATM) from Mid Carolina Credit Union in Lugoff. The thief or thieves apparently used a large, stolen piece of equipment to rip the ATM from its concrete base and load it into or onto some sort of vehicle, almost surely a truck, given an ATM’s size and weight. 

That sounds like something you would see on Hawaii Five-O, but this is neither a movie nor TV show. This is the real thing and it happened right here in Kershaw County. I’m not in that line of work, but I expect breaking into an ATM is a difficult task. That has to be the reasoning for stealing the entire thing, then cracking it open later in some secluded spot away from witnesses and law enforcement.

Such a move surely takes a lot of nerve. I’m just guessing -- again it’s not my chosen profession -- but the risk of being seen is fairly high, even in the darkest hours of the night. Maybe that’s part of the thrill.

It turns out this kind of crime happens more than we realize. In investigating Tuesday’s incident, Kershaw County Sheriff Jim Matthews and his deputies found a pattern of very similar crimes throughout the southeast. The sheriff provided me a list of known ATM thefts but it came just a bit too late to get into the story we had in Wednesday’s paper. So, I’m sharing the list with you now.

2009 Athens, Ga.

2010 Powdersville and Clemson

2011 Greenville, Pawley’s Island, North Augusta and Lexington

2012 Mt. Pleasant and Ft. Mill

2014 Morrow, Ga.; Fayetville, Ga.; Adairsville, Ga.; and Spartanburg

2015 Lake Wylie; Davenport, Fla.; and now Lugoff

Matthews said there’s no definite proof at this time all these thefts were done by the same people, but it’s suspicious looking that all were done with the aid of a stolen forklift or other machine capable of uprooting the cash machines and loading them up in a matter of seconds. And apparently the crimes, at least the one Tuesday, were carried out very swiftly. Matthews reported an alarm sounded when the Lugoff ATM was ripped from its foundation and a Kershaw County Deputy arrived less than two minutes later, only to find the empty spot where the ATM had been. The sheriff’s office’s resources are often spread thin throughout the county and response times of less than two minutes are certainly the exception rather than the rule, but that’s no fault of the sheriff or his personnel. No one can be everywhere at all times.

Since these thefts fall under the definition of bank robbery, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is involved in the investigations, and we hope it’s only a matter of time until these crooks are busted and brought to justice. The thing about criminals is they almost always become comfortable with their crimes and start to feel invincible and think they’re smarter than law enforcement and society as a whole. That’s when they get sloppy and end up getting caught or leave vital clues behind that lead to their arrest.

I hope I get to print their mug shots for you in the Chronicle-Independent very soon. If you know anything about the Tuesday morning crime, even if you saw or heard something that didn’t seem important at the time, call the Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office at 803-425-1512 or Crimestoppers at 1-800-274-6372.

One final thought. Enjoy tomorrow’s Carolina Cup, but please do so responsibly so we don’t have to put your mug shot in the paper. Thanks.