Solid fundamental police work and a police dog with a good nose finds thieves before police fully aware the bank had been broken into.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  March 20, 2013  They were less than ten minutes from getting away with at least  $300,00 in cash along with documents that looked like passports, coins and jewellery.  Police were responding to a security alarm at a bank on Fairview.

It was Show & Tell time for the Halton Regional Police as they displayed the more than $300,000 in cash that thieves nearly got away with after the broke into a branch of the TD Bank of Fairview early Monday morning.

The alarm, for what is turning out to be the biggest bank break-in this city has ever experienced, came in at 1:00 am Monday March 18th.  Security alarms are all part of what police on night duty contend with – but within seconds the officers responding to the call knew they were dealing with a bank which drew in other patrol cars out on the road.

When police arrived at the bank entrance the doors were secure – but there had been a bank alarm.

The duty officer would have been alerted and additional police cars pulled into the parking lot of the Nicholson Plaza on Fairview immediately west of Walkers Line.

Police would not say how they believe the thieves got out of the building – but if there were cars with lights blazing in the front – the rear of the building would appear to have been how they got out and then crossed the railway tracks.

The first thing the police did was establish a perimeter which in this case meant covering off space on the north side of the railway tracks which complicated things.

The thieves came out of the building on the left and crossed these railway tracks and were found by police dogs amongst trees on the north side of the railway tracks.

The canine unit was brought in even though at that point the police didn’t know what they were dealing with.  While the police officers on the plaza side of the building were checking the front entrance the police officer and the dogs did their routine searches and came across five males hunkered down amongst trees on the north side of the railway tracks and took the men into custody.  Police say none of the five resisted arrest.

In police custody and awaiting a bail hearing on Thursday are:

John HICKEY, 44 yrs of Caledon

Alexander PAPIC, 48 yrs of N.F.A.

Aldo SIMONI, 31 yrs of Scarborough

Mentor VISHJAY, 36 yrs of N.F.A.

Besim RUGOVA, 32 yrs of N.F.A.

Police photo of the hole cut through the floor of a second floor unoccupied office directly above the bank vault.

As the investigation unfolds, and this is still a very active investigation, the police report this was a “very sophisticated and well planned bank break-in.”  The accused had actually gotten away with it and were out of the bank and across a set of railway tracks with the $300,000 in duffle bags before the police were fully aware that a bank had been broken into.

The investigation so far shows that the thieves had taken empty office space on the top floor of the two storey building presenting themselves as workers doing renovations.  It is not known if they actually rented the space or if they had just broken in and did all their cutting and drilling at night

Police report they believe the men were in the space for at least two days prior to their escaping from the building early on the Monday morning.

Walky-talkies were recovered along with construction tools used to cut through the concrete floor.  The doors to the offices on the upper level had very small hallway windows which on the north side of the building were covered over.  There was no building permit anywhere near the offices where the hole was cut through the floor.

There are tenants on the second floor of the building.

The police described this break-in as one with a “degree of sophistication … that is unrivalled” in their experience.  Detective  Donna Whittaker, who has been with the force for 20 years, is still following leads and working with other police jurisdictions to learn if they have come across anything like this.

The thieves appear to have spent a lot of time planning and appear to have known where the weaknesses were in the bank’s security system – and there certainly were weaknesses.  Cutting through a floor and dropping into a bank vault, scooping up hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and then getting out of the building and on the way to vehicles on the other side of the railway tracks suggest there were some delays somewhere.

Expect the bank to be giving the Fairview branch a tight security review.

Tools of the trade for renovators and thieves.

When police first arrived at the bank the entrance doors were secure.  The police were not prepared to say how the thieves left the building but they did report that the men were able to cross the railway tracks and hide amongst trees on the north side of the railway tracks.

The bank, a branch of TD Bank, brought in a senior staff member to meet with safety deposit box holders and, if their box had not been broken into – they were allowed to do whatever they wanted with their valuables.  For those who were looking at a gaping hole where the safety deposit box they rented used to be – there will be all kinds of forms to fill out to describe what was in the box.

Deputy Chief Andrew Fletcher and Detective Donna Whittaker answer media questions during the display of all the cash and other valuable recovered during a bank break-in where the bad guys almost got away.

The police seized an acetylene oxygen tank, concrete cutting tools, repelling equipment, ladders and auxiliary lighting sources.

The police believe they have recovered everything taken from the bank but they may not be certain they have everyone involved in custody.  There were probably lookouts stationed in the parking lot and in the immediate area which is perhaps why the thieves were able to get out of the building before police arrived.

Three of the accused did not have a fixed address and there is the suspicion they are from out of the country.

There was not going to be another un-authorized withdrawal – this officer from the Tactical Rescue Unit watched everyone very closely.

The police were keen to display the cash that almost got away – and they were equally keen that the money didn’t get away a second time.  Two officers from the Tactical Rescue Unit, fully armed, were stationed outside the community room and the Burlington station as well as an officer inside watching  a room full of shifty eyed reporters.




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