A worker patches the drywall in a vacant Uptown retail space next to the Telus store Tuesday around noon

Cellphone stores targeted in sophisticated heists

Saanich police investigators suspect thieves were targeting the new BlackBerry 10 mobile phone during two well-planned break-ins this week.

Saanich police investigators suspect thieves were targeting the new BlackBerry 10 mobile phone during two well-planned break-ins this week.

A thief or thieves broke into a Rogers Wireless store on Quadra Street early Monday morning and then a Telus Mobility store at Uptown early Tuesday morning. In both cases, the suspects entered the stores by cutting through drywall from a vacant next door retail space.

“We believe they’re related,” said Victoria police Const. Mike Russell. “We’re working closely with Saanich PD, see if we can put two and two together.”

In the case of the Rogers Wireless store, Victoria investigators are trying to determine what, if anything, was stolen. Police described the store as being in a state of disarray when employees arrived in the morning.

At Uptown at 3 a.m. on Tuesday, Saanich officers responded to an alarm at the Telus store, and eventually discovered that someone cut through a wall leading into the rear staff office.

While in the empty retail space, the suspect drilled a number of test holes in the wall and then cut open an access with a knife, said Saanich police Sgt. Steve Eassie. The vacant space was broken into but wasn’t alarmed.

Around noon on Tuesday, a worker could be seen patching a rectangular, door-sized hole in the shop beside Telus. Police say nothing was stolen from the Telus store, likely due to the audible alarm that was tripped from a motion sensor.

Eassie said the Rogers and Telus break-ins coincide with the highly publicized release of Research In Motion’s BlackBerry 10, and are similar to the break-in at WestWorld Computers in September last year, around the time when Apple released its iPhone 5.

On Sept. 24, 2012, thieves stole $40,000 of Apple products from WestWorld by disabling the alarm system and breaking through the wall from an empty adjacent store. A day earlier, the now-closed Best Buy at Uptown was broken into and its security system had been tampered with.

“It looks like there is a correlation between the release dates of the iPhone 5 and the BlackBerry 10,” Eassie said. “This type of incident is not a random act. It’s not a crime of opportunity. These are well-planned premeditated incidents.”

No one was caught for the WestWorld theft, and Eassie said it was a struggle for investigators to get serial numbers of stolen items. He couldn’t say if any of the stolen goods had popped up on online sites such as Craigslist or EBay, but he suspects the gear was moved out of the city.

“The reality is this is a well organized group or individual. It’s highly unlikely (the stolen goods) were on the market here in Greater Victoria.”

Saanich and Victoria investigators are waiting to get surveillance video from the respective stores from this week’s break-ins.

Anyone with information on these incidents can call VicPD on the non-emergency line of 250-995-7654, the Saanich police at 250-475-4321 or report anonymously with Crime Stoppers  at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

-with files from Dan Palmer



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