Burglars crash into Van Buren bank, use forklift to steal safe

VAN BUREN, Ark. (AP) - F-B-I agents are working today to identify burglars who burst through a bank's wall in Van Buren and then made off with the bank's one-ton safe.

A gaping hole in the rear wall of the First Community Bank was reported at about 8 a.m. yesterday.

When investigators went inside, they saw the bank's safe was missing. Steve Frazier, a spokesman for the F-B-I in Little Rock, says agents intend to identify the thieves and arrest them.

The burglars apparently stole a forklift from a construction site near the bank, then used it to hoist the safe out of the bank.

Police aren't sure yet if the burglars used the forklift to ram into the bank, creating a hole, or if they used another vehicle or method to get in.

Detective Keith Lindley of the Van Buren Police Department says he believes two- to four people committed the heist.

After creating a hole in the building, the burglars then disabled on security camera by pulling out its wire and pointed another one away.

Authorities believe the burglars may have loaded the safe into a pickup that was parked at a nearby church, where the forklift was abandoned.

Frazier says the F-B-I has investigated many bank robberies that involved unusual methods. But he did note that the Van Buren heist was not one that agents see every day.

In 2004, an unusual attempt at theft from a bank in Searcy led to the capture of a pair suspected in numerous bank jobs.

Police discovered a fake night deposit box that had been built onto the side of a Searcy bank branch so it could collect night receipts dropped by restaurants and other businesses.

Similar fake boxes had turned up earlier in Eureka Springs, Fort Smith, Hot Springs, and Little Rock. The two men eventually arrested were accused of performing similar trickery in six other states.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)