Break-ins for ATMs threaten corner store

By Beth Freed Staff Writer

Police note slight increase in Oak Lawn burglaries



Burglars used a stolen SUV to ram back and forth through the front of the convenience store at Oak Lawn and Congress streets on Dec. 1 in an unsuccesful attempt to steal the ATM machine. Two weeks earlier burglars used a crowbar to enter the store and stole the ATM.

The Oak Lawn Mart may close because of repeated burglaries targeting its stand-alone ATM machine, according to the owner Shaukut Khoja and his wife, who run the store, asked their landlord to install security bars on the windows of the store, but this request has been declined, said Khoja.

“We feel very insecure,” he said. “I’m not sure if we’re going to stay. We may have to shut down the store.”

A 1989 Chevrolet Suburban crashed through the front of the convenience store at Congress and Oak Lawn at 4:20 a.m. Dec. 1. According to police reports, the stolen SUV, license plate W45YCM, rammed back and forth against the machine, before the driver gave up and left without any stolen booty.

The convenience store owners had bolted the machine to the floor after someone had stolen another ATM machine on Nov. 17 this year. Those criminals used a crowbar to gain access to the store at 2:21 a.m. Security tapes of the incidents have been turned into the police for review.

According to Officer Keith Allen, stand-alone ATMs have become a common target for thieves. Usually, an SUV or van will ram through the front to grab the ATM machine. Even though the Khojas lucked out in the second attempt to steal the machine from their store, bolts have been known to fail when rammed with a vehicle.

“It’s the stand-alone ATMS that are the honey to the bee, if you will,” said Allen. “It’s not up to us to get involved in anybody’s private business practices, though.”

The couple had just invested $280 in new locks, but to no avail. On the morning of Dec. 1, the front doors of the store were smashed to bits, the metal frame was bent askew and junk food and sodas were scattered across the floor.

“They did not use any bars this time,” said Khoja. “They just used the van.”

The second attempt at criminal activity at the store yielded more damage than missing goods. Police reports list the damage to the machine as valued at $5,000. The original stolen ATM machine was listed as $40,000, so if thieves managed to crack the oyster, they may have found a $35,000 “reward” for their efforts.

There has not been a significant increase in burglaries in the Oak Lawn area, said Donna Hernandez, a spokeswoman in the Dallas Police Media Affairs office. According to the Dallas Police website, 37 of the 82 burglaries in 2005 were businesses, and businesses were the target for 41 of the 74 burglaries reported so far this year.

Email freed@dallasvoice.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, October 20, 2006.

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