December 6, 2023


Business&Finance Specialists

Business owners react as local smash-and-grab crimes continue

3 min read

According to police reports over the past five days, six businesses were targeted. The majority of them were left with severe damage to their ATM machines.

ST. LOUIS — Two more businesses in South St. Louis were broken into overnight on Tuesday, Nov. 29. 

It’s part of a string of smash-and-grabs that continue to affect areas across the city. 

According to police reports over the past five days, six businesses were targeted. 

The majority of them were left with severe damage to their ATM machines. 

It’s an ongoing problem that business owners such as Ednen Sawlan are tired of dealing with.

“Breaking all of this — it will be around $4 to $5 thousand just for the door, the alarm — the ATM. All of that. It’s just kind of crazy,” he said.

Sawlan described the call he got around 4 a.m. on Tuesday morning as “heartbreaking.”

Surveillance footage shows thieves breaking into his laundromat, R&M Laundry located on Gravois Avenue, and destroying his ATM and alarm system.

The thieves got into the business through a boarded-up door, that still was not fixed from the last break-in a month ago, according to Sawlan.

“In the end they didn’t get anything, they opened the face of the ATM and got nothing,” he said.

Sawlan is not the only one that got hit overnight. 

Less than a minute down the road, thieves smashed the window of Oak Street Health on Gravois, about 15 minutes before Sawlan’s shop got hit. 

Oak Street Health told 5 On Your Side in a statement:

“The safety of our employees and patients is our highest priority. Thankfully, there were no employees or patients at the clinic at the time. Nothing was stolen. We are currently assessing and repairing the damage and are cooperating with law enforcement on their investigation.”

“It’s so hard. It’s been all over and it’s not just me,” Sawlan said.

The 5 On Your Side I-TEAM obtained new details from a law enforcement source about how widespread this problem is. 

There were 70 smash-and-grabs in three weeks from Oct. 26 to Nov. 16. Most of them are taking place between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m.

The suspects are primarily looking for money and taking it from cash registers and safes. 

Police believe there are at least three active groups committing these crimes right now, ranging from groups of two to six. 

According to the information from the details received, about 34% of these smash-and-grabs are taking place in District 2. 

About 20% of the crimes are taking place in District 4, which makes them the next highest district. 

Martin Casas, Apotheosis Comics owner, said crime and break-ins are something small business owners are always worried about.

“As a small business owner if our store gets broken into and $1,000 of items gets stolen, we could go out of business,” he said.

For Casas, that is the last thing he wants to happen to his shop and that is why he is being extra cautions and making some changes.

“With recent break-ins around the region…we’re making sure to take things home with us that we know are high value…make sure we’re not leaving any cash in the drawer…we don’t leave any cash in the drawer now…we take our high value items elsewhere,” he said.

Whether they have been a victim or not, business owners across the city just want it to stop.

“There’s just so many things small business owners have to do in a day, that it’s one thing that we really don’t like to think about,” Casas said.

“We need the police to work with us,” Sawlan said.

Courtesy Diner on Hampton was one of two restaurants broken into on Monday, Nov. 28. 

5 On Your Side spoke with an employee over the phone, who said it’s happened to them four times in the last four months.

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