Fruitless destruction of vending machines

Since December of 2014, 14 vending machines located on Bellevue College’s campus have been broken into by an unknown individual or group armed with a crowbar.

“We’ve had 12 machines broken into of Coke’s and two of Food Service’s Canteen vending machines,” said Todd Juvrud, BC’s director of food services.

Vending Machines - c

The first instance of this theft occurred in the vending machines by the college’s parking garages. A vending machine was pried open with a crowbar, then the box which stored money was broken into and all cash removed.

Every money box destroyed costs Coca-Cola approximately $1,000 to replace. Roughly $20,000 of damage has been caused. Though these costs might be absorbed by their insurance, Coca-Cola might consider removing machines from vulnerable areas. Tommy Vu, BC’s director of public safety, urges students to consider the negative effects of continued break-ins.

“If problems continue,” said Vu, “the company that provides these machines for us will not replace them and you will have to walk much further to get your quick fix during your break.”

Alternatives might present themselves in the form of Coca-Cola or its insurance company launching an investigation or presenting a reward for information.

“There’s no rhyme or reason to it,” said Juvrud, as none of the machines outside of the C building take cash, and haven’t since February.

“There’s a sign that says ‘Credit Card only, no money in this machine,’ and they still do it,” said Juvrud.

However, only approximately half of the machines on campus carry this sticker, warning potential thieves of the absence of cash.

None of the product is being stolen out of the vending machines and in every instance the box that once held money is being broken into, leading Juvrud and Vu to believe that the thieves are seeking nonexistent cash.

Coca-Cola’s insurance has been covering the cost of damages for break-ins thus far, but eventually the cost might be levied onto students in the form of heightened security and camera systems. The only building that hasn’t been hit is the C building, where cameras are leveled at every machine.

Juvrud is surprised that such measures would be necessary.

“We’re going to put bigger signs next to it, but we’ll see,” Juvrud said.

Public safety has been investigating the matter for some time, and hopes to soon have the issue resolved.

“We have leads, but it is hard,” Vu said, “because we are an open campus, plus the suspect appears to blend in with the college community.”

The vending machines being broken into are not isolated to hidden or tucked away areas. Instead, many of the machines have been in plain view or in areas of high traffic, most often during school hours. Because of this, Vu believes that it is likely that students have or will see the perpetrator during the act.

“I would urge the students to be watchful of their surroundings,” Vu said, “If they see any unusual activity,  call public Safety right away. Your call is always confidential.”