West Seattle Crime Watch: ATM stolen from South Seattle College, found in Arbor Heights backyard

(UPDATED 11:38 AM with new info from SPD)
(WSB photos. Added: ATM-theft scene outside SSC’s Brockey Center)

5:19 AM: As day breaks, police are following the trail of a stolen ATM. The cash machine was taken from South Seattle College (WSB sponsor) on Puget Ridge a few hours ago.


5:29 AM: The investigation has led police to a north Arbor Heights neighborhood where they have just recovered it.


5:45 AM: Police have pointed us to the backyard of a house at 39th SW and SW 97th, regarding where it was recovered – they say it’s the large white item in the background of our photo. And if you’re in AH, that’s a TV helicopter. No arrest(s) reported so far.

6:09 AM: Just talked to SPD spokesperson Det. Mark Jamieson, who says officers are waiting on a search warrant before going in and actually taking possession of the stolen ATM. He says he can’t yet confirm what led police to the house; discussion we’d been monitoring for hours via scanner indicated it was a satellite tracking device, relatively new technology developed as ATM theft started to spike.

6:53 AM: Apparently at least one TV helicopter also has been over the theft scene on Puget Ridge, too. We expect a bit more information from police later this morning and will update when that’s in.

11:38 AM: And here’s that information! Just posted to SPD Blotter by Jonah Spangenthal-Lee:

Police recovered a stolen ATM from the backyard of a West Seattle home Tuesday after a thief in a pickup truck smashed his way into a college building and made off with a safe filled with cash.

Officers responded to South Seattle College in the 6000 block of 16th Avenue Southwest just before 2 AM after receiving reports of a break-in. At the scene, they found someone had broken through locked gate and driven a pickup truck through a glass door on campus to get to an ATM. After dismantling the cash machine, the thief loaded the ATM’s heavy-duty cash safe into their truck and fled.

Police found the unopened safe in the yard of a home in the 3900 block of Southwest 97th Street, where robbery detectives later detained and interviewed one male resident. Detectives released the man and continue to investigate the case.

Detectives are still looking for a white Chevrolet pickup truck with a crew cab, believed to have been used in the break-in at the college.

If you have any information about this case, please contact the SPD Southwest Precinct Burglary Unit at 206-233-2623.

Here’s a closer look at the item in the yard that we now know was the ATM’s safe:

theatm (1)

37 Replies to "West Seattle Crime Watch: ATM stolen from South Seattle College, found in Arbor Heights backyard"

  • Alki Resident May 31, 2016 (5:49 am)

    Where in Arbor Heights? 

    • WSB May 31, 2016 (6:03 am)

      41st and 97th. Still adding more to the story …

      • Brian May 31, 2016 (8:40 am)

        39th Ave SW and SW97th

        • WSB May 31, 2016 (8:46 am)

          Yes, sorry, I fixed it in a later comment. Had literally spent hours driving around while the scanner listed possible addresses in the vicinity.

          • Mizliss May 31, 2016 (10:56 am)

            As a person who lives at 41st and 97th, I’ll tell you that it was a reasonable error given the number of police cars that were outside of our house starting at (?) 4:30. Such a lovely way to start a day. Seriously, though, I’m glad that the police seem to have apprehended the bonehead in question and that the helicopters are gone. 

  • AmandaKH May 31, 2016 (5:55 am)

    Thank you TV news for waking me up. 

  • Eric1 May 31, 2016 (6:17 am)

    LOL… another helicopter.   I thought it was something really serious.  At least the blog is on top of it and I can confirm that if you ever wonder “why is that helicopter in my neighborhood?”  Just check the blog.  

    Note to criminals:  Even the most amateur crook knows there is a GPS in the ATM.  Perhaps they dropped off the carcass at a “friends” house for fun and games but somehow, I don’t think so.

    • WSB May 31, 2016 (6:21 am)

      Eric – Both a TV photojournalist at the scene and I had to admit we hadn’t heard of “LoJack for ATMs” (my nickname for it now) before … Anyway, update to the intersection I mentioned earlier, it’s 39th and 97th. A little punchy – this became an unexpected all-nighter … TR

      • AJP May 31, 2016 (11:11 am)

        Well obviously neither of you are amateur crooks, then! :D 

  • CandrewB1 May 31, 2016 (6:19 am)

    Hope Mom and Dad have enough equity in that home to cover the damages.

  • Eric1 May 31, 2016 (7:20 am)

    WSB not knowing that there is a GPS in the ATM just shows that you are not a crook.  I only know because the mini-mart next to work got burglarized a couple of years ago.  The crooks took a lot of cigarettes but left the ATM on wheels alone.  I asked him why and he told me that all the new ATMs have GPS locators and the criminals know to leave them alone.  He also said that they don’t normally leave that much money in them so crooks just steal stuff actually worth money on the street. 

  • miws May 31, 2016 (7:24 am)

    I admit that I was unaware of GPS  trackability in ATM’s, but it makes perfect sense that they would be so equipped nowadays,


  • Tim May 31, 2016 (7:46 am)

    This is one strange crime. I’m stunned someone hasn’t been arrested yet.

  • TM May 31, 2016 (9:26 am)

    I just heard an arrest was made. Any more information?

    • WSB May 31, 2016 (9:45 am)

      Just asked SPD media relations and they say they don’t have anything on an arrest right now. Which isn’t necessarily a confirmation or denial … TR

      (Added – I’ve also checked the jail register. If anyone’s in custody, they don’t appear to have been booked so far – the few on the register who’ve been booked in the past few hours are listed as being held on other types of charges. Again, not an absolute rule-out, but one more datapoint.)

  • Cpeterson May 31, 2016 (10:01 am)

    I am in this area on occasion and am familiar with this block.

    This house is a SKETCHY sore thumb in an otherwise great little area. Tons of kids, families etc. 

    It only takes about 5 minutes of observing this place to realize that the residents have quite a few “visitors” that only stay 3 minutes. And sometimes these visitors don’t even get out of their car, they just get something through the window and leave! Hmmmm…. This is of course when they are not running a chop shop in the driveway. 

    Clearly, this guy was trying to make his “business transactions” more convenient for his “visitors” by bringing an ATM to his location….. joking. 

    I am really curious to hear if they catch the thieves and what happens to them. Great reporting WSB. I am sure the neighbors are not surprised at any of this from the little I have witnessed in passing over the past several years.

  • Elliep May 31, 2016 (10:33 am)

    Yes, great reporting, thanks you!  Passed by on a dogwalk & saw TV cameras, so I sent a “tip” at 8:30 – of course TR had already been and gone 3 hrs earlier! Next time I’ll check the Blog first. You rock. 

  • WSB May 31, 2016 (11:37 am)

    SPD Blotter is just out with some new details I’m adding to the story. It mentions one person was “interviewed, detained, and released,” so apparently no one is in custody so far. – TR

  • South Delridge Gal May 31, 2016 (11:51 am)

    Not funny but sort of funny that I just watched Barbershop on HBO last week. Hopefully, the robbers will turn up and nobody gets hurt. 

  • Chuck May 31, 2016 (11:58 am)

    Looks like they did a number on the front door of the student center (judging by the debris, unless that’s incidental?). Sorry to hear these guys have been a thorn in the neighborhood for some time. This seems like the kind of activity that should have been reported (and if it was, given more attention). I mean, a chop shop in the driveway? Obvious drug trafficking? 

    Here’s hoping these punks (if “guilty”) are on done with their actions in the neighborhood. Can’t wait to hear they’re behind bars.

    • WSB May 31, 2016 (12:08 pm)

      I checked the address and the owner’s name and there is no indication of nuisance-house type complaints, court action, etc.., which you would usually see if a property has such problems, unless they are relatively recent or have gone unreported. Aside from a bit of junk in the backyard, as you can see in the photo, what we could see did not look particularly unkempt.

      • Mizliss May 31, 2016 (2:47 pm)

        There may be no nuisance reports, but the guy who lives there (son of the owners) buys old, beaten up cars, dismantles them, and fixes (?) them. Sometimes he keeps it neatish, sometimes it’s a mess. I’m glad to be a block away rather than a next-door neighbor. 

        • JC May 31, 2016 (5:28 pm)

          My parents live nearby and I used to walk this street for many years.  I saw an older gentleman (probably the son’s father) out inspecting his fence in the back today which I’m assuming is where the truck drove thru and dumped the ATM.  The yard has always been kept nice in the front and back and I have talked to the woman there many times and she seems nice.    Don’t know much about the son as I never saw him.

  • Donn May 31, 2016 (12:54 pm)

    Just wondering if our neighborhood gets the most buzzed by helicopters or is it just the same as elsewhere in Seattle. They should disallow helicopter buzzing between normal sleeping hours.

    • WSB May 31, 2016 (1:04 pm)

      It’s usually just the luck (or lack of luck) of the draw … if news is happening during live newscast hours, which are ever expanding (these days 4:30-9 am in the morning and 4 pm-7 pm in the evening are the major times you’ll get aerial coverage). There are “only” two TV choppers in town now (KOMO/KING share one, KIRO has its own), used to be three, although three likely don’t sound appreciably louder than two, and there can be three if the two are out covering something Guardian One is on, which was NOT the case today. You can complain directly to the TV stations if it bugs you, especially really early in the morning in a residential zone … TR

  • Jw May 31, 2016 (1:39 pm)

    I wonder if dpd could have a police officer accompany them on a home inspection? Looks like an addition under the deck. I wonder if it was permitted?….

    • -I also think this could be a great way to pay a debt to someone you don’t like…
  • newnative May 31, 2016 (2:40 pm)

    Considering no one has been charged and we don’t know who the suspects are nor their relationship to this location, some of the comments here are fairly mean-spirited about this person’s house.  Perhaps the atm parts were dumped?  Worry about your own backyard.  

  • Teg May 31, 2016 (6:30 pm)

    F yeah newnative, you’re so right. Judge your own backyard!

  • Rick May 31, 2016 (6:55 pm)

    JW. You have a computer. I need to see your taxes. I wonder if you paid them.

  • southstudent May 31, 2016 (8:15 pm)

    I go to school at South, when i got there this morning i didnt know about what had happened.  I parked in the south lot as I normally do, as I was walking towards Brockey i noticed glass all over the ground and thought to myself “weird” I looked  the OLY building up and down to see if a window had broken because cars don’t drive there. Seeing no broken windows I continued walking to RAH, like i always do i cut through Brockey…well i got to the doors on the other side of the hall, near the bookstore to meet a blockade and couldn’t pass through I turned around noticed the BofA bank machine gone. I continued my trek to class and when i got to doors i would have came out of, there was yellow tape surrounding  the area and people repairing the damage…the double double doors I pass through everyday were gone. Arriving in class I learnt that someone had drove through and stole the bank machine…..all I could do is SMDH 

  • Jw May 31, 2016 (8:17 pm)

    I was simply suggesting that a look inside the home may be appropriate. It’s illogical to think it was purely random. 

    • JC June 1, 2016 (7:45 am)

      It’s my understanding you can add onto your deck or build a storage unit under it without a permit. I have never seen any “chop” shop cars in front etc.  Now the house a few doors to the West, I’ve noticed several cars there being taken apart and used for another car. As WSB mentioned, there has been no record of this house being a nuisance or in trouble.  The only way you can get into that house is a probable cause search warrant and since the police have already interviewed , I’m guessing the owner, who is an elderly man, they probably didn’t feel the need to search the house and maybe they did with owner’s permission.  Till more info is released, we shall see what the outcome will be.

  • Jim Clark June 1, 2016 (10:01 am)

    I am surprised there hasn’t been some pictures from security video at SSCC released yet.

    • WSB June 1, 2016 (10:04 am)

      Hi, Jim. As I noted in the update in the Crime Watch story published late last night, the college does have video of the truck entering and departing, but not of the actual theft/removal. I have received the video and it involves two very short, slightly blurry black-and-white clips of the truck racing by, so I’m hoping to slo-mo it. Will take a bit but we’ll publish it when we have it ready – TR

  • dave June 1, 2016 (7:37 pm)

    ok so I am a neighbor and knows son he has givin permission to police to search they did and found place to be neat and clean nothing there unusual now for people on here you should be ashamed of yourselves think about the problems your causing these people I see know traffic there ever only cars that son works on the son dont ever go anywhere at all I really think son has no friends now cars that been left there I see tow trucks come get so chop shop can’t be the son is just an unemployed man trying to scrapby working on cars doing yard work for I see him working on many of your yards and thanks to you good neighbors now just made things harder for him their is no traffic at that house that I see none and he is home so he must not of had anything to do with the atm you people should apologize to him and his family and if have a job you can help him with help him dont destroy him by lies I pay that things work out for him and pray you people actually become human it easily could have been your backyard love thy neighbor don’t condem him if one needs a lift up give him a lift up dont take him down farther I wish I could give this man a jonb he seems like a hard worker and always done good work for me and still will every chance I get to throw his way god bless you all

    • naughtynot June 2, 2016 (12:44 am)


        I want to thank you so much for speaking what you know and not what you assumed. To many people assume or judge without knowing the truth or facts.I have to say which is not real wise cause it could have been anyone of you that had that left in ur yard and got woke uop like my mother and father did who new nothing and had to deal with this situationor what my family is going thru do to this thing being left in their yard my family has lived in that house for 44yrs and never have we been thru such a ordeal and for the people that are saying all negitive thing about my family u dont know my mother was a waitress at a restraunt for over 25 yrs same restraunt got a heart of gold my dad worked for city light for ove 30 something  yrs and they have lived aquite hard working life and never once had issues living in there house or neighborhood i have to ask do u people know what really happened how that got there who was involved or u just assuming cause it could of been ur house they decided to drop it at instead of my parents my brother is a good man who does odd jobs to get by and u have turned the house into a chop shop drug house really not at all you are slandering my family and its nice to know what kinda people our living in the neighbor hood now my parents are retired and dont deserve your negitive comment and they are going thru enough like i said how woulkd u feel waking up aout of a sound sleep to this and not knowing anything but what the police tell u and all of a sudden all of ur kids and grandchild are being questioned and so ur scared upset and then u get to read all the wonderful thing people in ur neighborhood are saying yu dont know us and u dont know how or why or who was envolved in this but you sure made ur own judgement thats nice my brother is a nice guy and does his odd jobs doing yard nworking on cars and i agree with dave before u slander and destroy someone u should get to know them and try to help them u assumed my mother house is a chop shop and drug house really how would you feel if someone said that about your parent because of this type of situation  or if they were talking about you but didnt know you from adam my family has worked hard all there life and have lived there for 44yrs and never had an issue thanks for making my mother feel so good about walking out her house and wondering whos looking and talking nonsence about her which she doesnt deserve think about it you could have been the house they dropped that in and not only dealing with taht and everything eles now u read things ur so called neighbors are saying that are lies and judgemental Its God s job to judge not ur and please dont speak on my family unless you know hwho they are or have proof of wehat ur saying no one knows the reall story cause it was our house and we dont even know how this all camre into play so talk ur negitive stuff somewhere lese please my mother was in hesarics and could of had a stroke or hgeart attack behind all this and would that have made a difference About the build on undernieth the deck it has been there for years its a hot tub been there since i was a kid so really what r you talking about im 51 so u must be new to just notiuce it wow good eye the police did search parts of my parents house and as it will always be free of what ever you people assumed was in there it was all clear please stop hurting my family worse than they are already dealing with Those of you who know or have spoe to my family with ur support and kind word thank you thanks you so much my mom needed that badly and so did my brother God Bless you and may God make u stop and think before you speak as he is the only Judge and like i said what if you would of been the yard they chose to put it in and woke up to this nice ordeal and read such mean things as im sure you smile in there faces and say hi or something to them that so sad please dnt write anything about my family unless u have facts hard truths and know them to speak on them thanks you

  • Cpeterson June 2, 2016 (8:45 pm)


    You are right. Even if I have seen things that made me pause,  that doesn’t mean my assumptions are accurate. And it is not my place or productive to share snarky thoughts. I have tried to remove my comment, (but only WSB can do that)  because I do not think it advances the discussion, and was written without thinking about it’s potential effects. Everyone has their own issues and I would hate to be judged by what people assume about me. I hope this matter is settled in a fair and accurate manner to all involved. 

Sorry, comment time is over.