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Police hunt Puma Gas Station ATM thieves

Posted: Tuesday, December 5, 2023. 11:52 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: Last week was particularly difficult for Heritage Bank, which saw three of its automated teller machines (ATMs) at locations in the Belize and Cayo Districts targeted.

According to Stephen Duncan, Managing Director, Heritage Bank, the successful robbery at the Puma Gas Station at the corner of Fabers Road and the George Price Highway overlooking the roundabout on Friday morning was the third such attack, following one the previous Saturday in Roaring Creek and earlier that day on the Bullet Tree Road in San Ignacio.

The Cayo machines were vandalized and compromised, but nothing was stolen. However, the thieves in Belize City were able to make off with the entire machine and all the money therein, believed to be roughly a hundred thousand dollars in cash.

ACP Hilberto Romero, Regional Commander, Eastern Division, detailed how the thieves managed to defeat the security at the gas station: “The manager reported that he had secured the building the previous day around 9:30 p.m., and then when he came to open the place, he discovered that the [ATM] had been stolen. Entry was gained by prying open a glass door from the building. Video footage was reviewed, which showed that a van came with chains, and they pulled the machine, which then was loaded into the van, and the person made good their escape. An investigation has been carried out, and the van has since been recovered and we are seeking several persons in regards to this burglary.”

Duncan told Channel 5 News that the bank is rethinking whether it can continue with ATM service: “We have been diligently trying to put ATMs in various locations for the convenience of the wider public, and we think it has been working. We are seeing the usage, so we think that the public appreciates it, but clearly, we cannot continue to do that with these kinds of losses. I have no doubt the insurance company is looking at this and they themselves are considering how they deal with us. So, it’s going to be a loss. As I said, the good suffers for the bad because it’s going to be a loss all around for everybody. But certainly we [can’t] continue to do this at this rate.”

Heritage Bank has established up to 50 such machines at locations countrywide, hence they are more sought after. Additionally, none of the locations targeted had security guards on watch. However, police do not believe that the thefts were organized by any sort of crime ring or indeed that any of last week’s incidents were related to each other.

 

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