Police and business owners remain puzzled by a crime spree last weekend in which the suspects stole a forklift, car and hundreds of dollars from at least six businesses on East Chatham Street.
Cary police say they’re investigating a string of burglaries that occurred early Sunday morning and an attempted ATM theft that occurred Tuesday. Police have not identified any suspects but say they are looking for at least two people, based on security footage from the crime scenes.
On Thursday, business owners said they were surprised by how the weekend crimes were committed. The suspects used a forklift to break into at least two buildings, police said. They stacked tires to break into a back window of an auto dealership, and they vandalized one business while leaving others more intact, according to police reports.
“It really doesn’t make sense to me still,” said Adam Menges, service manager of Black Forest Industries, an auto body shop that sustained the bulk of the damage.
The exact sequence of events remains unclear, according to reports. In total, suspects stole about $400 and did more than $15,000 in damage at Black Forest, J.M. Thompson Company, Madsen Motor Company, Thrift 2 Gift, 900 East Hair Studio, Cary Mower and Saw and PNC Bank.
Police said they believe the same two people attempted on Tuesday, Jan. 13, to break into an ATM at BB&T at 848 SE Maynard Road. In the second incident, police said the pair used pry bars about 10:20 p.m. to open the ATM but were unsuccessful. Police said they left the scene on foot.
Sunday’s incident likely started when the suspects hopped a fence behind J.M. Thompson, a general contracting company at the corner of East Chatham and Travis Park Drive, and stole a forklift, police said.
The keys were in the forklift because it was behind a large gate, said Marty Thompson, executive vice president of the company.
“I never dreamed someone would jump in and steal it,” Thompson said.
Most contractors are concerned about losing smaller machinery and equipment, he said, which the vandals didn’t touch.
After using the forklift to break out of J.M. Thompson’s gate, the suspects then used it to pry open the back door of Black Forest, located across from J.M. Thompson in the same office park, said Cary Police Capt. Randall Rhyne.
The suspects then disabled the auto shop security camera, stole cash and emptied fire extinguishers throughout the office before stealing a Chrylser 200 that they later used to ram an ATM at PNC Bank on High House Road, Rhyne said.
Menges said because of the fire extinguisher damage at Black Forest Industries, the cleaning staff “basically have to vacuum everything from the floors to the ceiling.”
“(The suspects) even sprayed inside filing cabinets,” he said.
More damage done
The forklift was recovered in the mud at Madsen Motors, a luxury car dealership located a half-mile away from Black Forest on East Chatham Street. The suspects had smashed the forklift headlights and rotating caution light.
“I guess so people wouldn’t see them driving it down Chatham Street,” Thompson said.
At Madsen Motors, they used the forklift to try to break into the dealership through a garage in the basement, but that didn’t work, said Wayne Madsen, co-owner of the company.
Though the dealership’s entire front facade is glass, the suspects used the forklift to stack about 10 tires on top of each other, Madsen said. They climbed the stack to break into an office window on the floor above the garage, Madsen said.
“Who knows why they did it that way?” he said.
An alarm sounded when the suspects entered Madsen Motors, and police responded about 2:24 a.m., Rhyne said. Nothing was stolen, but Madsen estimated the damage to the window and garage door to be about $1,500.
Police believe the suspects then drove the stolen Chrysler to the PNC Bank at the intersection of High House and Cary Parkway, about 5 miles away. They used the car to ram the ATM, but were unable to access any cash.
The car was recovered after being wrecked near Bond Park, Rhyne said.
Surveillance footage obtained
Surveillance footage from the ATM’s camera shows a person wearing a black mask covering his or her mouth, nose and hair.
Rhyne declined to a give a description of the suspect in the video or say who police might be looking for. They released pictures and video from the ATM cameras Friday afternoon. Cary Police are asking anyone with information about the break-ins to call the town’s non-emergency hotline at 919-469-4012.
George King, director of Thrift 2 Gift, at first thought the suspects could be professional thieves, he said. They were in and out quick, emptying his cash register and destroying his surveillance system, he said.
But the more King has heard from other victims, the more he said he thinks the suspects are likely to be younger adults or kids.
“I think they’ve been watching too many (heist) movies,” he said.