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Authorities grapple with ATM thefts

Authorities believe one group is responsible for a string of at least 13 ATM and coin-change machine thefts since late August.

Underlined by yet another pilfering early Thursday at a car wash in Cheney, the chain of thefts stretches across the county. And with so many incidents at so many locations, investigators have suspect and vehicle descriptions to work with.

They are on the lookout for two to three white males, 5-foot-10 to 6-feet tall, according to a Spokane police statement. Their tool of choice: a gray or green 2002 Chevrolet Avalanche pickup, with damage from ramming ATMs or pulling them out from their foundations.

“There’s no finesse in just taking a vehicle and just bashing it and bashing it into a building until the machine falls over,” said Sgt. Dave Reagan, of the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office. “It’s not rocket science.”

Stealing or breaking into an ATM or coin-changer is difficult, said Spokane police Officer Jennifer DeRuwe. They’re usually bolted down, they’re heavy and the cash inside is hard to get to. Most of the thefts have left the perpetrators empty-handed.

“It’s not a very lucrative business,” DeRuwe said.

But early Wednesday, thieves got their hands on the cash from an ATM they stole from the Harper Shell gas station on the West Plains. They abandoned the bashed-up ATM on the side of a road near Indian Canyon Golf Course.

Ramming a truck into an ATM isn’t inconspicuous. Though police and sheriff’s deputies patrol at night, they can’t be everywhere at once, Reagan said.

For instance, the deputy who watched the West Plains on Wednesday morning patrols 600 square miles. That’s why law enforcement relies heavily on residents reporting crimes and suspicious people, Reagan said.

Property crimes detectives with Spokane police and the Sheriff’s Office are working on the cases in their jurisdictions. But for now, there are no suspects, Reagan said.