Hole-in-wall gangs steal $87 million
Gangs who targeted cash machines 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.
The Times 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 miles away. – The Times