GASTON COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - Police in Lincolnton and Gaston County are on the lookout for three people believed to be responsible for a series of early morning restaurant break-ins.
The thieves used a large rock or cinder block to smash glass doors of the restaurants. Lincolnton Police say three people broke into two restaurants, starting around 2:30 a.m. Detectives say the culprits didn’t take anything from El Ra Mexican Restaurant, but at Panda, the bandits swiped the cash register.
Then, a short time later in Belmont, more restaurants were targeted.
“Crazy. I’m glad nobody got hurt,” said Nate Helton. “Nothing catastrophic happened aside from a broken window but it’s just crazy. I hate that people do stuff like that but I guess that’s just the way it is.”
Helton, the general manager of The String Bean, says his alarm company notified him sometime around 4 o’clock in the morning that there seemed to be a problem at the restaurant. After Belmont Police responded to the scene, they told Helton that the glass door was smashed in.
In fact, the restaurant next to The String Bean was also hit.
Video from surveillance cameras inside The String Bean shows a rock shattering the glass, then three people crawl into the restaurant. Two of the thieves retrieved the rock they used, went back outside and can be seen throwing the rock at the door of the pizza shop next door.
Meanwhile, one suspect stayed inside The String Bean and went directly to a specific area as if searching for something specific. But seconds later the person suddenly runs out without taking anything.
“He was clearly looking for something because there’s a lot of other things that could be taken. There’s beer and wine. There’s a lot of stuff that they could have just grabbed but they were on a mission for something,” said Helton. “Most likely money I would imagine. The restaurant next door - they ran out with the cash register - they actually took it out of the building.”
The Sake Express in Belmont also lost a cash register.
Police responded to the restaurant and found the glass door broken.
Officers say they lost precious time in the investigation at Sake because they couldn’t get in contact with managers.
Belmont Police are urging businesses to update their emergency contact information.
“Our biggest issue that we deal with is response or lack of response from the keyholders. They’ve either not updated their information with the alarm service, they’ve changed alarm services, alarm service we might have on file is not the service they’re working with now,” said Sgt H. R. Paul. “Update your alarm contact information with your alarm service. Contact your location police or sheriff’s office with your business name, emergency contact that we can go straight through our communications and call you directly.”
Police in Lincolnton and Belmont are checking with officers in Gastonia and Mt. Holly to see if Wednesday morning breaking and entering cases in those communities are part of the same crime spree.