By Herb Meeker
News Report Staff
Effingham Police officers were scouring Village Square Mall for evidence on a burglary where a vehicle smashed through an entranceway, drove down the walkways and crashed into the Zales Jewelry Store hours before dawn Thursday.
The driver of a sports utility vehicle avoided striking furniture in the mall walkways before striking the jewelry store window, informed sources said this morning. Initial reports indicate merchandise was stolen from Zales, which is located on the south side of the mall.
The entranceway that served both as access and exit for the vehicle is located on the northwest side of the mall, facing Banker Street. No injuries were reported from the incident with the mall closed down overnight.
Sources said glass was spread down the walkways. Due to this safety hazard, the police investigation closed down the mall for most of Thursday morning. Many early-morning mall walkers were turned away by the lockdown, as police officers and mall employees conducted their work.
Police were first called to the mall sometime after 2:30 a.m. Thursday after a call from a night maintenance employee, who discovered the extensive damage. The officers found glass and framing on part of the northwest entrance shattered or demolished. They then found the damage to a window of the jewelry store.
Effingham Police Chief Jeff Fuesting said he was working with his detectives and declined offering comments on the investigation earlier Thursday morning. With the cleanup of glass, most mall stores were scheduled to open.
This was obviously a spectacular version of a smash-and-grab burglary, but it is not unique to the area.
On May 1, 2012, a stolen van crashed into the Zales Jewelry Story at the Tanger Mall in Tuscola. Jewelry was stolen before the suspects drove away during the overnight burglary.
More information will be reported as it becomes available on this crime story.