(WTVO) – Investigators say thieves have been targeting gaming machines in bars across Stateline area and are warning others to be alert.
Police in Stephenson and Lee counties say at least 4 bars have been broken into and officials say they are investigating similar incidents across several jurisdictions.
“The front door was pried open. All the machines were pried open and we [knew we] probably had a problem,” said Desteny Chowinard, the manager of Loose Screw bar, in German Valley. “They came in in the early hours of the morning, broke into all of them within five minutes, and took off with all the money.”
The Stephenson’s County Sherriff’s Office is investigating three similar bar burglaries.
Investigations Lt. Brad Curtis, said, “July 31st, we had the Loose Screw bar in German Valley was burglarized, the gaming machines were hit. The next day, August 1st, we had the Ridott Corners Tap was hit, and then on August 2nd, Route 20 Bar and Grill [in Freeport] was hit. We’ve been in communication with several other counties, looking into the possibility that these are all connected. We don’t have anything firm on that right now, though.”
The Lee County Sheriff is warning local bars and gaming parlors to be on the lookout.
“There’s no crime in German Valley,” Chowinard said. “It was very surprising. It’s a very quiet, very peaceful town. [It’s] normally happy here and nothing ever goes wrong, so it was definitely a shock.”
Chowinard wants the burglars to know the impact their actions have had on her business. “We’re all single moms and young women and it really affected our jobs. They didn’t just rob the State of Illinois and the gaming machines, they stole from us, too.”
Lt. Curtis says police are going through the security camera footage from each bar in the hopes of identifying the burglars. The Loose Screw bar has since installed a new security system.