The cleanup of shattered glass was underway Thursday afternoon at Zales Jewelry at the Village Square Mall in Effingham. That was the site of a crash and burglary early Thursday morning.

By Herb Meeker

News Report Staff

Effingham Police officers have recovered the vehicle connected to the Thursday morning burglary at Village Square Mall.

Effingham Police Chief Jeff Fuesting said a charcoal gray Cadillac Crossover was found sometime Thursday. The  Zales Jewelry Store was burglarized after that vehicle crashed through the retailer’s front window hours before dawn Thursday. The Cadillac entered the mall by crashing through the northwest doorway and then drove carefully down the walkways before striking Zales to gain access to display cabinets. A number of jewelry items were stolen before the vehicle backtracked across the mall and left through the shattered entranceway.

Chief Fuesting confirmed Effingham detectives were checking on suspects this afternoon. So the criminal investigation is moving forward very quickly. Anyone with information on this criminal incident can call Effingham Crimestoppers at (217) 347-6583.

“We’re calling it a fluid investigation. We have recovered the vehicle and we’re following up on leads at this point. And surveillance cameras provided insight into the vehicle and clothing of a suspect,” Chief Fuesting said during an interview after 1:30 p.m. Thursday.

Police were first called to the mall at 3:18 a.m. Thursday after a call from a night maintenance employee, who discovered the extensive damage, Fuesting said. The officers found shattered glass and bent framing on part of the northwest entrance. They then found the damage to a corner window of the jewelry store. A cleanup crew was collecting broken glass inside the store Thursday afternoon.

Fuesting said the driver of the Cadillac avoided hitting furniture and other items in the mall walkways before striking the jewelry store window. The amount of merchandise stolen from Zales has not yet been confirmed. Zales is located on the south end of the mall, while the damaged entranceway is located on the north side, facing the west parking lot.

“The driver drove very carefully through the mall before approaching Zales,” Fuesting said. It is believed the driver drove in reverse during the drive-through.

Broken glass was spread down the walkways. Due to this safety hazard and the police investigation, the mall was closed down for most of Thursday morning. Many early-morning mall walkers were turned away by the lockdown, as police officers and mall employees conducted their tasks.

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.