Hole-in-wall gangs make off with $87 mil­lion

Nelson Mail - - Opinion - Bri­tain

Gangs that tar­geted cash ma­chines in Bri­tain last year struck al­most twice a day and stole nearly £50 mil­lion as the use of ex­plo­sions and at­tacks us­ing dig­gers rose, The Times re­ports.

With the gangs in­creas­ingly fo­cus­ing on ru­ral ar­eas, tac­tics in­cluded us­ing stolen dig­gers to tear ATMs from the wall, pump­ing the ma­chines full of ex­plo­sive gas and us­ing in­dus­trial tools to take them apart, a re­port to be pub­lished to­day shows.

A to­tal of £46.8 mil­lion (NZ$87m) was stolen in 722 at­tacks last year. There are ad­di­tional costs of about £100 mil­lion in lost trade and dam­age to build­ings, ac­cord­ing to the pa­per com­piled by Cardtron­ics, an ATM oper­a­tor.

The gangs, de­scribed by po­lice as highly or­gan­ised and highly so­phis­ti­cated, have de­stroyed build­ings across the coun­try. Some of the gangs have been linked to firearms of­fences and high-level drug deal­ing.

The type of crime has risen so rapidly that now one in ev­ery five at­tacks on a cash ma­chine in Europe is in the UK.

The re­port, which uses in­dus­try data, is the first to show the ex­tent of the prob­lem and its im­pact on com­mu­ni­ties. Since 2013 the num­ber of thefts clas­si­fied as dan­ger­ous has dou­bled, with gas at­tacks, ram raids and stolen dig­gers and 4x4s used to tear out the ma­chines.

Al­most half of the 722 at­tacks last year were clas­si­fied as ‘‘dan­ger­ous’’ in the re­port, mean­ing that there was risk to life. There were about 100 gas ex­plo­sions. The re­port pre­dicts that the at­tacks will have dou­bled again by 2020 un­less ur­gent ac­tion is taken.

The doc­u­ment re­lates the ex­pe­ri­ence of a post­mas­ter and his wife from a small vil­lage in south­east Eng­land who said the at­tack that de­stroyed the post of­fice be­low their home was ‘‘like a bomb go­ing off’’. In a sim­i­lar case in Oc­to­ber, the en­tire fa­cade of a post of­fice in Spon­don, Der­byshire, was blown off in a failed at­tempted theft.

A sur­vey of 2027 adults con­ducted as part of the re­port found that half of re­spon­dents from ru­ral ar­eas re­lied on be­ing able to use a cash ma­chine at least once a week.

The re­searchers found that in­creas­ing num­bers of com­mu­ni­ties were be­ing de­prived of their only ma­chine.

re­ported in Au­gust that suc­cess­ful ef­forts by po­lice to stop the gas at­tacks ap­pears to have led to an in­crease in ‘‘drag outs’’ – at­tacks in which gangs of thieves wear­ing bal­a­clavas, of­ten steal­ing dig­gers or other ve­hi­cles with hy­draulic arms from farms and con­struc­tion sites, tear out ATMs be­fore drag­ging them off in stolen cars.

The cars are in­vari­ably found burnt out a few kilo­me­tres away.

Cardtron­ics has called on the UK Gov­ern­ment to recog­nise the na­tional scale of the prob­lem and take ac­tion, de­mand­ing a ze­ro­tol­er­ance ap­proach to the gangs, tougher jail sen­tences and en­hanced sur­veil­lance.

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