Police investigate golf course burglaries and vandalism

Police investigate golf course burglaries and vandalism
By: Carly O'Keefe

BENTON, Ill. - Vandals and thieves have targeted golf courses in Franklin, Perry and Williamson counties in recent weeks.
The most recent of those burglaries took place late Sunday night or early Monday morning at Rend Lake Golf Course. 
Thieves broke into Gibby's Restaurant on the Green and stole an entire ATM machine.  Investigators said the suspects carried the machine away using a stolen utility golf cart.  When they were far enough away in the woods south of the golf course, the thieves apparently broke into the machine, stealing an undetermined amount of cash.  They then ditched the ATM in the woods and dumped the utility cart in the lake.  Several small one-serving liquor bottles were also stolen from Gibby's, and police hope those tiny bottles will lead them to the guilty parties.
Franklin County Investigator John Graskewicz is following the trail left by the burglars.
"(The bottles) are the kind you'd see on an airline. If you have seen any of those one-serving bottles in your yard, I don't care where you live in Franklin County, call me because they may have evidentiary value," Graskewicz said.
The Gibby's burglary isn't the only golf course crime police are looking into.
The Benton Country Club was also broken into and a safe was stolen from there with quite a bit of cash. 
"We had a golf course in Perry County broken into and again, a lot of cash was taken.  We also had a golf course in the Lake of Egypt where there was property damage," Graskewicz said.
The Benton Country Club was first hit about a month ago.  Vandals drove their vehicle onto the green and tore up the turf.
"There's quite a bit of damage," said Benton Country Club employee Dave Perkins.
Weeks later, burglars hit the same country club, stealing at least 10 golf clubs and some cash from the pro-shop.
"They were able to break down two locked doors and got to a safe, a small safe and they took that safe," said Perkins.
The course is gearing up for its 60th Anniversary Gold Cup Tournament to be held July 27-28. Perkins said it's a very special time at the Benton Country Club, but it's been made much more difficult by these recent crimes.
"Money is tight for all of our golf courses, so any time you have an expense you didn't expect, it sets you back that much further," he said.
At this time, police are not certain whether the cases are connected or not.  However, if you have information on any of the golf course crimes, you're asked to contact the Franklin County Sheriff's Department.