Luce Line Lodge victimized by burglars

For the second time in four months, authorities are investigating what appears to be a fairly elaborate burglary of a Watertown business.

The Carver County Sheriff’s Office reported that the Luce Line Lodge was burglarized in the early morning hours of Monday, Nov. 5, a burglary that apparently involved the suspects using a ladder to access the roof in an attempt to disarm the alarms before removing the Automated Teller Machine (ATM) through the side doors. The suspects, who can be seen on the restaurant’s surveillance cameras, were also caught on camera that night at the Mobil Mart in Mayer, which reported later that morning that its telephone wires had been severed, apparently also in an attempt to disable any alarms. Nothing was reported taken from that store.

The Sheriff’s Office also received reports of break-ins the morning of Nov. 5 from Creative Hair Salon and the Family Dollar Store in Norwood Young America. There, the suspect or suspects gained entry by forcing open the back doors. It appears an effort was made to remove a safe from the building, but Carver County Chief Deputy Jason Kamerud said nothing was reported missing from the stores in Norwood Young America. While the incidents in Watertown and Mayer can be definitively linked by surveillance video, Kamerud said the Sheriff’s Office does not know if the incident in NYA is also related.

“We have no reason to believe they are connected, and no reason to believe they aren’t,” Kamerud said.

According to a press release issued by the Sheriff’s Office, deputies responded to an alarm at the Luce Line Lodge at 4:19 a.m. on Nov. 5. Deputies discovered the ATM had been stolen, but there were no suspects at the scene.

At least two male suspects can be observed on the restaurant’s surveillance video, according to a crime alert issued by the Sheriff’s Office. One suspect is estimated to be 5-foot-8 with a medium build, and the other suspect appears taller and stockier. Kamerud said authorities were having difficulty discerning the race of the suspects, but it appeared that at least one was Caucasian. The suspects’ vehicle also was captured on the restaurant’s front door camera just before the alarm was triggered. The vehicle appears to be a green Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Prior to entering the restaurant, the suspects apparently accessed the roof, where they cut a cable in an apparent attempt to disarm the alarm system. However, Luce Line Lodge managing owner Tom Romanoski said the suspects actually cut the wire for the cable television instead. Romanoski said the suspects were in the restaurant for about three minutes.

“Obviously, the people that broke in, this was something that was planned out,” Romanoski said. “They knew where they were going and they knew what they were after. I’m also disappointed in how long it took the police to get here. I would have expected it to be sooner. The response time should have been less even though (the suspects) were in and out quickly.”

Losses from the burglary are estimate at $5,500. This burglary is also the second in the last several months in Watertown that is of a fairly sophisticated nature. Over the Fourth of July weekend, the Marketplace Foods grocery store, located directly across the street from the Luce Line Lodge, was burglarized by one or more suspects who cut a hole through the roof to gain entry and steal roughly $7,000 in cash and other items.

“What surprises me is that on two occasions now, we’re both right next to City Hall, where the police is stationed out of,” Romanoski said. “It’s just disheartening that there are individuals out there brazenly coming into an area that is supposedly well-patrolled and right next to city hall, and not being worried about it at all.”

The grocery store burglary in July was slightly similar in nature to other burglaries in western Carver County this year. On Jan. 6, one or more intruders cut through the walls of all four businesses in a Waconia strip mall, and on the morning of March 23, it was discovered that the same thing had happened at the same Norwood Young America strip mall where last week’s incident also occurred.

Kamerud said it is not known at this point if the most recent burglary at the Luce Line Lodge is related to the July burglary at Marketplace Foods, or to any of the other burglaries earlier this year in other nearby towns. However, he said the Sheriff’s Office has taken note of the elaborate measures taken by the suspects during the most recent incident, as well as during some of the others.

“The fact that this appears to be a more sophisticated type of burglary has not gone unnoticed,” he said. “We’ve been working with other agencies outside of Carver County that have been experiencing similar situations.”