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Pull-tab machine break-ins continue

Sandy McGregor knew someone would likely break into her bar in Colfax, N.D. But she didn't think there was anything she could do to stop them. Ten small-town bar burglaries have been reported since late December, with at least another three bars ...

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Sandy McGregor knew someone would likely break into her bar in Colfax, N.D.

But she didn't think there was anything she could do to stop them.

Ten small-town bar burglaries have been reported since late December, with at least another three bars reporting attempted break-ins.

Authorities from Cass, Richland and Ransom counties met late last week to discuss the ongoing investigation. So far no arrests have been made.

McGregor discovered the overnight break-in at Colfax Bar & Grill last Monday when she came to work.

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Someone broke both doors to the bar, removed the side panel from the pull-tab machine and stole its proceeds. The bar is also missing seven cartons of cigarettes, frozen pizzas, liquor and kitchen knives, McGregor said.

"We were kind of expecting them, but we didn't know what to do about it," she said. "I have six big dogs; I should have put them in there."

DJ's Bar in Barney reported a similar burglary that same night, said Richland County Sheriff Kim Murphy.

Also that night, someone broke into a pop machine outside the Mooreton elevator and attempted to break into Frank's Bar in Hankinson, Murphy said.

Someone has broken into pull-tab machines from Rumours Bar in Davenport twice recently, once on Dec. 26 and once on Jan. 22.

In the most recent incident, the perpetrator also smashed a video game machine and broke into the dart board and a crane machine, said employee Janet Hellman.

The bar does have a security camera, but the suspect apparently became aware of it and avoided that area, she said.

Ransom County Sheriff Conrad Steinhaus said the recent break-ins are similar, but that doesn't mean the same people are responsible for all of them.

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"It's possible they're connected, it's not improbable that they're not," Steinhaus said. "It could be a coincidence that we've had this many."

Pull-tab machine break-ins are nothing new, he said. Steinhaus recalls a similar rash of burglaries from two or three years ago.

"This is an old problem, different day," he said.

Lt. Rick Majerus of the Cass County Sheriff's Department said making sure the pull-tab machines are emptied nightly would deter burglars.

State law prevents bar employees from emptying the machines.

Representatives from the charity that profits from the machine are the ones authorized to retrieve the money. The profit from the machines goes to the charity, not the bar.

The Leonard Fire Department has pull-tab machines in Rumours and in Kojak's Bar in Leonard, said fire department clerk Kay Heuer.

Burglaries mean there's less money to distribute to charitable causes, Heuer said. The fire department sponsors summer programs, helps fund the library and gives to benefits for sick children.

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To prevent burglaries, Majerus tells bar owners to install alarm systems.

"A lot of them don't want to spend the money on that, but when you get hit two or three times, it's a good investment," he said.

After burglars hit Kojak's Bar about five times a few years back, owner Harold Butenhosf decided he'd had enough.

The Leonard bar owner has beefed up both front and rear doors with steel bars and double dead bolts. The bar also has a motion detector alarm system and security cameras inside.

Butenhosf's efforts paid off Jan. 22 -- the same night of the Rumours burglary -- when someone tried unsuccessfully to break in.

"I said they're not coming in and I mean it," he said. "At the time it was a lot of extra work, but it was worth it in the end."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Amy Dalrymple at (701) 241-5590

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