BURGLARIES SHARPEN FOCUS ON SAFE, ATM SECURITY

WASHINGTON -- The security of supermarket safes and automated teller machines is under greater scrutiny following a string of burglaries on the East Coast and in the Midwest that began three years ago. Authorities in those regions have made a number of arrests over that period, and the crimes are linked to safecrackers from the southern part of Europe, specifically Albania and the former Yugoslavia.

WASHINGTON -- The security of supermarket safes and automated teller machines is under greater scrutiny following a string of burglaries on the East Coast and in the Midwest that began three years ago. Authorities in those regions have made a number of arrests over that period, and the crimes are linked to safecrackers from the southern part of Europe, specifically Albania and the former Yugoslavia. Close to 200 burglaries in 15 states have been attributed to the gangs over the past three years, and losses are estimated at a minimum of $1.5 million -- virtually all of it in cash, sources said.

see if police respond. If they do, the burglars wait till they leave, then smash a hole in a store's roof and drop in.

Once inside, they cut alarm wires and break into the store's safe or automated teller machines using sledge hammers and crowbars, although they have apparently switched to acetylene torches in some cases, Allison noted.

Nick Barilla, director of loss prevention for Giant Food, Landover, Md., said his company has been hit several times by the gangs over the past couple of years.

To cut its losses, Giant has increased the number of cash pickups so the stores hold less money, and it has also installed new alarm systems at all stores.