3 but caught on camera snooping around front-end loaders minutes before smash and grab


On the morning heavy machinery was used to break into a Sobeys in St. John's, a business in Paradise filmed three men checking out the front-end loaders on its lot.

They were unable to start the machines, but about 20 minutes later a different piece of heavy equipment was used to smash into the grocery store on Kelsey Drive and steal an ATM. Three men were spotted fleeing the scene of the crime.

When employees checked surveillance cameras at J&N Excavating and Contracting, they found "three unwelcomed guests" on the lot around 5 a.m. on Monday.

They're using your machines to break into someone else's business– Steve Walsh, J&N Excavating and Contracting

According to Steve Walsh, an employee at the business, the trio must have been the site of a nearby location.

"Our guys came in just before they picked up our trucks to go out salting, and two minutes after we left, they came in the yard," he said. "They were watching us."

Machines ditched in other robberies

Meanwhile, police are searching for suspects in a pair of brazen break-ins on back-to-back days.

On Sunday, a front-end loader was used to open the site of a TD Bank branch on Elizabeth Avenue in St. John's.

After the Sobeys break-in on Monday morning, police were recovering from ATM in a wooded area on Camrose Drive in Paradise, a short distance from Pretty's excavating business.

In both break-ins, the heavy equipment was abandoned nearby and left running.

The inside of the Sobeys on Kelsey Drive was completely exposed after a piece of heavy equipment ripped out of the building. (Sarah Smellie / CBC)

Walsh said it looked like the men were rummaging through their vehicles either looking for keys, or trying different keys in the ignition to see if they could start them.

Many heavy equipment vehicles use generic keys, which means one key can start any machine with the same ignition.

"It's quite frustrating, even to know somebody is in your machinery," he said. "They're using your machines to break into someone else's business."

Walsh said they do not hide the keys in their machines, as some people do, but said it is about how easily accessible generic keys are.

"You can get these keys from any dealer," he said. "I don't know how you could stop that, unless you go out and put a lock on every machine."

Newer machines have digital locks, which said the operator will enter a code before the vehicle will start, but the technology is not available for every rig.

Walsh said the surveillance video is now with the police, and said one man's face is partially visible.

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