Gaming machines have been smashed open and stolen from in a series of bar and restaurant robberies in Racine and Kenosha counties. The suspects may have committed similar robberies in Illinois.
Although no arrests have been reported yet, the robberies are likely connected, according to the Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department.
Three Kenosha Co. taverns hit
Sgt. David Wright of the Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department said three taverns in the county were burglarized in November. In all three cases, the thieves targeted only the gaming machines.
He said The Packer Inn Tavern, 924 S. Cognswell Drive, Silver Lake, was burglarized on Nov. 15. The Sandlots of Salem, 9251 Antioch Road, was burglarized Nov. 29. Johnny’Z Pour House, 10936 Sheridan Road, Pleasant Prairie, was hit Nov. 30, although it appeared thieves also attempted to break into the tavern a few days earlier and failed.
Wright said detectives believe it is the same crew targeting rural businesses with gaming machines. He said the burglars have not attempted to break into cash registers or take anything else, focusing only on the money in the machines.
The Racine County Sheriff’s Office did not respond to requests for comment. However, the Caledonia Police Department issued a call earlier this month for public help in identifying robbery suspects, through photos from security cameras, of at least one similar robbery of a gas station in Caledonia that occurred Dec. 2.
Detective Christopher Schuster of the CPD said there was only one gambling machine break-in in Caledonia at a tavern: The Depot Restaurant & Tavern located at 11402 County Road G. This occurred in October. However, at the end of November, there were break-ins at a gas station: Sai Mart at 13600 7 Mile Road.
“They got hit twice in two days by the same people,” Schuster said.
Another gas station, the Pilot Travel Center at 13712 Northwestern Ave., was also broken into. While the Caledonia Police Department is still actively pursuing the investigation, Schuster said the department has two suspect vehicles of interest.
While Schuster suspects it’s the same people committing the same gambling machine crimes throughout Caledonia and the county, he said he can’t confirm that until evidence proves it.
“I don’t believe in coincidences,” Schuster said.
Property crimes like these ones, he said, usually increase during the holidays.
“We have received leads, but we are looking for more,” he said. “If anybody could help us, we’d be grateful. They will continue to commit these crimes until they get caught.”
Pictured are suspects for several thefts from gas stations located along Interstate 94 in Racine and Kenosha counties, according to the Caledo…
The Caledonia Police Department is looking for assistance in identifying two suspects allegedly involved in a number of thefts along Interstate 94.
Candi Lucksted, owner of TinCan Roadhouse, 20715 Durand Ave., Yorkville, said her business was targeted at 5 a.m. Monday.
She estimated nine businesses in the City of Racine, Union Grove and Caledonia area have been targeted in the past few weeks.
One of them was Dead Mann’s Saloon, 3518 S. Beaumont Ave., Kansasville. On Tuesday, the Kansasville establishment posted three photos of smashed-open machines with the caption: “Good way to start the morning.”
By Wednesday, according to the Facebook page, Racine Amusement had replaced the machines. A Facebook post said that the saloon was open and that money would be removed from the machines nightly “from here on.”
The Journal Times is not naming the other establishments from which robberies have been reported without confirming with law enforcement, speaking with the businesses themselves or the businesses independently disclosing such a robbery.
Lucksted said the burglars were in and out within 2 minutes and had everything planned out — how to break a machine, get the money and get out before police arrived.
The burglars got into three of five machines at TinCan Roadhouse. Lucksted’s husband was on his way to work and pulled in the roadhouse parking lot while the burglars were there, which may have scared them away from breaking into the other machines, Lucksted said.
“They left before they were finished,” she said.
Lucksted was happy no employees were in the building because they could’ve gotten hurt, she said. Usually two employees come in at about 5 a.m. or 6 a.m. to clean the kitchen and get things set up. On Monday, they weren’t there yet.
When someone breaks into the roadhouse, an alarm on Lucksted’s phone goes off right away and she gets a phone call, she said. “At 5 a.m., I knew that it was not a false alarm,” Lucksted said of when she got the notification. “I was shocked and scared. Then I was (angry). And now it’s just unbelievable. It’s not fair that people are so disrespectful, so non-caring for anyone else’s hard work and effort.”
Lucksted said she hasn’t had a chance to confirm with her insurance company how much the estimated cost of the damage was. But, she said, “it was a lot.”
“It’s a little disheartening in the times that we’re going through right now,” Lucksted said. “Every penny counts, and when someone decides to do damage to your property and steal, it makes it 10 times harder.”
She will have to replace the door, get new locks and new machines. Like Dead Mann’s Saloon, TinCan Roadhouse leases its machines from Racine Amusement.
TinCan already has many security measures in place, such as an alarm system. “Other than hiring an armed guard, I don’t know what else I can do,” Lucksted said. “I’m very thankful we’re such a tightknit community. It’s a shame that we all have to go through this. We’re just trying to keep everyone paid and employed throughout the Christmas holiday and New Year.”
Packer Inn adds defenses
Ron Connors, owner of The Packer Inn Tavern, 924 S. Cogswell Drive, Silver Lake in Kenosha County, said burglars came in through a corner window by the gambling machines.
The burglars smashed four machines along the wall, took the cash inside, didn’t touch anything else in the building and left.
“They had to know what they were going after,” Connors said. “They knew they had to get in within a few minutes before the alarm went off.”
Connors has another machine and an ATM on another side of the building that the burglars didn’t touch.
The machines were destroyed with what looked like a crowbar, Connors said.
The Packer Inn Tavern received new machines the next day, and a customer of the tavern repaired the window. Connors then installed bars on the window for additional security measures.
“I was able to get everything cleaned up pretty quick,” Connors said. Insurance covered the costs of the damage but the total estimate was a hefty $15,000.
“Aren’t the bars and restaurants having enough frickin’ problems?” Connors said. “I’m not singing the blues because I’m grateful for the business that I’ve got, but we’re all suffering. It’s tough.”
A $30,000 loss
Another burglary occurred in Racine County on Monday. While the burglars may have not targeted gambling machines at a saloon, the damage was still substantial and followed a similar format to the tavern robberies.
“They were in and out in 2 minutes,” Doug Nicholson, owner of Pearle Vision, 2721 S. Green Bay Road, said after reviewing security footage from the Monday robbery of his eye care center.
The front door was smashed and the alarm went off. The suspects carried in a City of Racine recycling bin. Inside, they dumped about 200 eyeglasses frames and the cash drawer — which only contained “some change,” according to Nicholson — into the bin. Then they left.
The total loss is about $30,000, said Nicholson, who as of Wednesday night was still in discussions with his insurance company.
Nicholson said police are investigating.
On the Facebook post regarding the break-in at Dead Mann’s Tavern, Nicholson commented about how Pearle Vision, too, had been robbed, but during a phone call Wednesday, he said “I doubt they’re connected” considering the distance between the rural taverns that have been robbed and his store being next to Regency Mall. But, he noted, there’s no way to know at this point if they are all connected.
Deneen Smith of Lee Newspapers and Adam Rogan of The Journal Times contributed to this report.