PALMER PARK, Md. (WJLA) - Criminals are targeting ATM machines at businesses across Prince George's County at an alarming rate.
The crimes, which often take place between midnight and 6 a.m., have plagued gas stations and convenience stores from Fort Washington to Edmonston.
"These incidents have occurred throughout the county. They've also occurred throughout the region. Washington, D.C. has been hit, Montgomery, Anne Arundel, Calvert, Charles Counties too," Prince George's County Police Department Capt. Brad Pyle said.
Since June 2013, police in Prince George's County have responded to 71 incidents where thieves ambushed an ATM kiosk. In 31 cases, the crooks successfully pried open the device's money compartment, or stole the terminal altogether. However, that leaves 40 failed attempts, where the perpetrators went home empty-handed.
"If we can get most of the people out there to realize, they're not going to get this thing [ATM] out of here, we could probably knock out two-thirds of these," Capt. Pyle added.
Around 5:15 a.m. Monday, three men hit a Sunoco gas station along the 4800 block of Kenilworth Avenue in Hyattsville. Surveillance video captured the crooks parking next to a gas pump, exiting their Chevy Suburban, and then using a crowbar to pry open a locked front door. The overnight clerk ran to a back room, but the suspects yanked him out and tied him up. Following two minutes of shaking, kicking, and rattling, the trio left the ATM machine, and took cash from the register instead.
"I was crossing the street when I saw police cars, and I got very nervous," Sunoco clerk Monserrat Medel recalled.
Medel, who works from 6 a.m. until 2 p.m., arrived at the store minutes after the culprits escaped in their burgundy SUV.
"They just tied him up and told him not to move," Medel added. "It's so inconsiderate to people who work, and they're [suspects] just trying to get easy money."
Most of the ATM units being targeted weigh between 70 and 200 pounds, and are bolted to the floor. Investigators say some hold $100, while others carry up to $5,000. Either way, police contend the crime is not worth a robbery charge, which carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.
"So what we want to get across is, this is not easy, and you [suspects] probably should just stop," Prince George's County Police Department Capt. Terrence Sheppard suggested.
On Thursday, Prince George's County Police announced a reward of up to $10,000 for tips that lead to an arrest and indictment in this string of burglaries and robberies.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Robbery Unit at (301) 772-4905. Callers can remain anonymous by calling CRIME SOLVERS at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477). You may also text "PGPD plus your message" to CRIMES (274637) on your cell phone or go to www.pgcrimesolvers.com and submit a tip online.
"Don't worry whether you think this information may be relevant, allow our detectives to decide that. Just call in and give us that information," Capt. Pyle concluded.