It didn't take long for Gary Gardner, Belmont Beverage operations manager, to find the latest online link to Patron Tequila.
“Here it is,” Gardner said Wednesday as he Googled the brand on his store's computer.
The popularity of the tequila has apparently made it one of the top choices to steal as thieves target liquor stores this summer. Fort Wayne liquor stores have been burglarized at least 12 times since late July, according to officials at two businesses.
The thieves throw a brick or cinder block through the front window creating a big enough hole to crawl through without getting cut. Then, they quickly head behind the counter and go for the “upper-end tequilas, scotches and tobacco,” said Joe Doust, co-owner of Cap n' Cork.
In a minute, they're out and gone before the police arrive, Doust said, even though the store alarm has gone off. The burglars are masked and wear gloves, but Doust believes someone will be able to pick them out in surveillance video footage.
“Someone will know who it is,” Doust said. “It's the same people, same M.O., same people in the cameras.”
It's also the “exact same time frame,” Doust said, between 1 and 4 a.m., and for Cap n' Cork, always early Monday. The burglaries occurred on Aug. 14, two on Aug. 21 and Aug. 28, he said.
At Belmont Beverage, seven liquor stores were hit, one of them twice, Gardner said. The burglaries occurred on July 23, 24, and 26, Aug. 11 and Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday, he said.
The hits have taken place all over the city, the men said.
“Fort Wayne detectives are actively investigating these string of burglaries,” Michael Joyner, Fort Wayne Police Department public information officer, wrote in an email response.
“At some of the locations surveillance cameras have captured the suspects in the act. Investigators will be pouring over these images in an attempt to identify who might be responsible.”
Joyner concurred on the similarity of the thefts.
“Two to three individuals enter the establishment armed with duffel bags. They fill their bags with liquor products, then flee the area spending very little time in the stores,” he said.
Gardner estimated his company's losses at a few thousand dollars, including glass replacement. Doust didn't want to divulge that information fearing it might encourage others to try the same kind of burglaries.
Gardner said he is looking into some window security that “will make it a little more difficult for these bozos. You can't put police outside your doors all night long. “
Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 436-7867.
“They're going to get caught,” Gardner said. “You know they are.”