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State lawmakers propose harsher penalties for ATM thieves after uptick in crime
BATON ROUGE - A number of ATM thefts have led state lawmakers to propose new legislation to crack down on these crimes.
“People are breaking through, crashing through as kind of a smash-and-grab with chains and trucks, and they drag these things down the road. And that’s the initial crime, and certainly, they complete the crime elsewhere by breaking into it,” State Representative Tony Bacala said.
Bacala says he’s concerned about the recent uptick in the amount of thefts.
“When you’re treating it like a theft or a burglary, it really doesn’t fit the crime. This is more like a bank robbery with the amount of money that is stolen and the amount of damage that’s done,” Bacala said.
That’s why he’s proposing a bill that would make ATM theft a new state crime, carrying a mandatory minimum of five years in prison if convicted.
"This is big business, and we want to send a clear message to everybody across the Gulf South... This is like an organized crime issue now. Go somewhere else because you’re going to face some serious consequences here. The penalty should fit the crime, and this is not your typical theft," Bacala said.
The proposed bill will be considered by lawmakers during the upcoming state legislative session that begins in April. In addition to the minimum sentence, whoever commits an ATM theft will also have to pay a fine equal to the amount of money in the machine when it was stolen.
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