PITTSFIELD -- When three suspects dressed in hospital-type garb, including surgical masks covering the lower portion of their faces, attempted to smash their way into Mad Macs Inc. at 317 North St. on Tuesday morning, a growing international crime wave hit the Berkshires: iCrime.
Over the last few years, thieves have targeted businesses that sell Apple Inc. electronics such as iPads, iPhones and iPods, which, according to Scott Kirchner, the co-owner of Mad Macs, "are high-ticket items and in demand" and "easy to move on the street."
Although nothing was taken from the Pittsfield store, less than two hours later in Northampton there was a similar break-in at Yes Computers on Pleasant Street in which $4,000 worth of computer equipment was stolen, according to The Springfield Republican. Yes also was hit in April 2011 and $50,000 in merchandise was swiped; no arrests were made in that case.
The Northampton Police have been looking into whether last week's crimes in Pittsfield and Northampton are related. No one has been apprehended in either case.
Another computer store break-in occurred in Amherst, N.H., not far from the Massachusetts border, on June 25. Although it's unclear whether this crime was related to the ones here and in Northampton, there were similarities, including the time of the crime -- 3:30 a.m. -- and the method of entry. The perpetrators smashed the glass from the front door to gain access, according to the New Hampshire Union Leader. In that crime, a reported $20,000 in electronics was taken. That business also specialized in Apple products.
A call to the Amherst (N.H.) Police Department wasn't immediately returned.
Across the country, there have been smash and grab break-ins of Apple stores and other computer businesses specializing in Apple products. Last September, two suspects drove a BMW through the front door of an Apple Store in Temecula, Calif., grabbed a handful of iPhones and made a getaway. A 22-year-old man was later arrested for the crime. In Boulder, Colo., a man used stones to smash the window of a Apple Store in February and made off with $64,000 worth of products.
Along with break-ins, iCrime also consists of thieves physically ripping victims' iPads and other devices out of their hands and running off.
In order to try and combat these crimes the wireless industry is creating a national registry system for logging the serial numbers of stolen phones, which according to CNN.com, will be up and running by the end of November. Apple is also trying to deal with the crime and has announced there will be a so-called "kill switch" on their newest iPhone operating system that requires an Apple ID and password to erase any data, making them less valuable to thieves trying to resell the devices.
Meanwhile, Pittsfield Police detectives are continuing to investigate the crime and are looking for a gray cross-over sport utility vehicle, possibly a Nissan Murano, used in the attempted break-in in Pittsfield.
Pittsfield Police Detective Capt. Patrick F. Barry said they had been in touch with Northampton Police.
Mad Macs, with a little reinforced security measures now in place, continues to do business as usual.
Anyone with information is asked to call Pittsfield Police at (413) 448-9705.