Thieves target Pierce County vending machines



LAKEWOOD, Wash. - Police are hoping surveillance video will help catch thieves breaking into vending machines and stealing money.


The surveillance cameras at Clover Park Technical College caught people hitting machines in late December and taking money from them.


Police said the leader of the team is a man who uses a screwdriver to break into the lock, get the money and close and lock the machine.


KIRO 7 Eyewitness News reporter Kevin McCarty spoke with Chris Lawler of the Lakewood Police Department, who said the man appears to be an expert at how the locks work and where the money can be found.


“It’s almost like he’s either been inside one before, whether it was a job or repair business, something like that,” said Lawler. “He goes straight to where the lock mechanism is. It doesn’t take him long to get inside, and then once he gets the machine open, he knows exactly where to go for the bills in coins.”


Police are hoping someone will recognize the coat worn by the man. The coat has a Nike swoosh emblem on the back and the man has long scraggly gray hair, but covers his face around cameras.


“Because he does put it back together and locks it, so it looks like the machine is in the same condition before he broke into it,” Lawler said.


Investigators said officials at Canteen Vending Machines in Fife claim the same method has been used to break into machines all over Pierce County. In many cases the break-ins go undetected for several weeks.


It is unknown at this time exactly how many machines were hit. Police said it appears quite a few have been hit because the break-ins have been going on for months.