WHEATON, Md. (WJLA) - A national electronics chain has become the target of local smash and grab thieves.
Burglars have broken into four Radio Shack stores -- one in Northeast D.C. and three in Montgomery County -- over the last seven weeks. Investigators believe two of the incidents, if not all four, are connected.
Early Wednesday morning, a shattered front door triggered the burglar alarm at the Radio Shack in the 11100 block of Veirs Mill Road in Wheaton. The white brick store is situated directly across the street from the Westfield Wheaton Mall, but at 3:24 a.m. things were quiet. It was the perfect setting for a smash and grab.
Surveillance video shows three suspects, all wearing gloves and masks, break through the front door, pull electronics off store shelves, and then take off with the merchandise before the sight or sound of a cop car.
Well aware of the domino-effect many smash and grab heists present, Montgomery County Police dispatchers informed midnight officers of the Wheaton burglary, prompting patrolmen to perform checks on businesses in their beats. Around 3:36 a.m. a Silver Spring officer pulled his cruiser into the White Oak Mall parking lot where he spotted shattered glass. It was another smash and grab at a different Radio Shack, about 5.5 miles away.
In the White Oak Mall case there was no audible security alarm, but more surveillance video that appears identical to the Wheaton break-in: three masked men wearing gloves. Store security cameras captured the men sifting through store shelves, only to flee with no items in hand. Based-off the security system time code, the trio escaped minutes before the Montgomery County officer reported the break-in. Detectives are looking to see if sirens or a police scanner triggered their premature exit.
"That's ridiculous. Why do people do dumb things like that," Radio Shack customer Cedrick Massey remarked. "That's the way some people live their life I guess."
While customers like Massey expressed their surprise, local business owners expressed fear:
"I'm really concerned about it," Jose Ayala remarked.
In 2012, crooks broke into Ayala's Mexican cuisine restaurant, stealing $2,500 in cash and top-shelf tequila. Repairs to the front door and a broken cash register set Ayala back an additional $1500 in hard-earned money.
"The cash register was on the floor. It was crazy. Put them in jail, they belong over there," Ayala added.
By Wednesday afternoon, locksmiths had repaired the doors at both Radio Shack locations. Detectives, however, were just starting to examine a possible larger link.
On December 19, two men dressed from head-to-toe in black clothing, lifted the rolling gate to a Radio Shack along the 1000 block of Brentwood Road in Northeast. Surveillance video later released by the Metropolitan Police Department, shows both suspects riffling high-ticket items into black duffel bags. The two avoided capture.
Then around 2 a.m. on December 20, the electronic retailer's Burtonsville store along Old Columbia Pike fell victim too; a crime eerily similar to what transpired in Wheaton and Silver Spring Wednesday.
Police have not made any arrests. Radio Shack did not return our phone calls for comment.