Operators counter external theft by installing security technology and working to place machines in more secure locations.
Loss from theft is among many things that increase an operator’s cost of operations. In the last six months, VendingMarketWatch.com has reported over 46 vending crimes, many committed by burglary rings or thieves who broke into multiple machines.
Overwhelmingly, thieves are caught by observant bystanders. Concerned citizens report suspicious men or women near a vending machine or even that the loiterers are physically breaking into the machine. Police arrive, catch the suspect in the act, and arrest them. However, when the perpetrator is not caught with his hand in the cookie jar per say, apprehending them becomes more difficult. While many operators say they don’t expect active investigating, when police have the resources and determination to catch vending thieves, it can be very successful.
LAW ENFORCEMENT WILL RESPOND
In Sandusky, Ohio, Steve Hall, Sr., founder, Firelands Vending, had police asking questions about vending crimes. Detectives wanted to know how thieves get into the machines, what times the break-ins happened, if Firelands had clusters of similar types of break-ins, etc. “Police wanted to stop it in their area,” said Hall.
Hall believes external theft is a big problem. The first time thieves started to target Firelands Vending’s machines, Hall lost $10,000. He thought it was internal theft at the start, and turned to electronic locks as his first defense. The locks not only allowed only certain people into the machines, but also carried information if someone tried to break into the lock. Electronic locks helped him discover the source of the crimes was external.
His experience is that criminals come from out of state, hitting his locations and then leaving the area. “We had a break-in to our facility over a weekend,” said Hall. The thieves couldn’t get into the safe, but there was money elsewhere in the facility. They took it.
A state patrol officer happened to stop the thieves on the Indiana Turnpike (because the vehicle matched the description of a hit and run) and glanced into the back seat. He saw moneybags with Firelands Vending name on them. Calling dispatch, it was verified Firelands Vending had a break-in, and the thieves were taken into custody.
THE THIEVES PLANNED THEIR ATTACKS
It turned out, Hall learned from police later, that the thieves were professionals from Minnesota. Planning to go out of town, they had looked up vending businesses in Ohio on the Internet and planned the break-in in advance. They’d even spent several hours disarming the alarm system, making it clear these people did this for a living.
Hall also credits Crime Stoppers for an arrest of an out-of-town thief. Crime Stoppers is a non-profit organization of citizens against crime. They offer cash rewards of up to $1,000 to anyone furnishing anonymous information that leads to the arrest of criminals. The tips are received through a secure tip line or secure Web connection.
Crime Stoppers unites the community, media (Crime Stoppers is publicized on all media outlets) and law enforcement agencies (who receive and process the anonymous tips). Hall reports that Cleveland, Ohio police put a video of a vending machine theft on Crime Stoppers and a Toledo, Ohio, police officer who was watching the news recognized the suspect, knew where he lived and called it in.
WISCONSIN POLICE FORCES FORM TASK FORCE
In February, the Dodge County, Wis., sheriff’s department and Beaver Dam, Wis., police department caught a ring of thieves targeting area vending. The leader is suspected to be a 22-year-old man with previous burglary convictions. He was recruiting others teaching them to break into vending machines and orchestrating lookouts and drivers for the break ins.