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Smash-and-grab criminal group targets small businesses in Colorado that have ATMs

Aurora police warns of thieves attempting to break into small business
Aurora police warns of thieves attempting to break into small business 03:13

A group of thieves are targeting small businesses across the Denver metro area, and those with ATMs at their stores are especially popular targets. The victimized businesses includes liquor stores, bars and marijuana shops.

Investigators believe the thieves, who wear masks and gloves, may have gotten away with more than $1 million.

CBS News Colorado interviewed several of the business owners who have been targeted, and they all said they weren't aware of how extensive the criminal operation appears to be.

"At first I thought I was a target for no apparent reason," said Girum Alamayehu, owner of G&E Liquors. His Aurora store was recently damaged by thieves who ripped out the ATM machine that was inside.


"It took about three weeks to clean up and bring things together," he said.

The ATM theft at G&E Liquors was similar to a crime in Westminster. And to dozens and dozens of other recent crimes across the Denver metro area.

"I would say almost every law enforcement agency from local, state, federal are all somehow impacted by this," said Aurora Police Division Chief Mark Hildebrand, who oversees the investigations unit.

Hildebrand says they are now working with multiple jurisdictions in Colorado and investigating more than 75 similar thefts since August.

"Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been taken in Aurora. Maybe in the milllions," Hildebrand said.

So far it's not clear, but Hildebrand says they are looking into whether the criminals are "somehow connected to a larger organization."

Police do know that the group is armed. That's due to a recent break-in where a large amount of guns were stolen. That crime has been connected to the ATM thieves.

Hildebrand said his unit has strong concerns about the continuation of the smash and grab crimes.

"If they're interruped by a citizen or a business owner, what's going to happen next?" he said.

In response, the Aurora Police Department is putting more officers in a better position to protect the small businesses that might be targeted.

"You're scared to leave your business when you go home," Alamayehu said. "(I wonder) Am I going to get the call? Are they going to break (in) again?"

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