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From card scams to ram raids, the scourge of ATM crime shows no sign of falling. RN’s Alex Yau uncovers the extent of the problem on a national scale
1 in 100 The number of convenience stores with ATMs that were victims of ATM crime last year
ATMs provide retailers with a means of increasing footfall, but a growing number of criminals are targeting these machines for their own unlawful purposes.
In an exclusive RN investigation, 36 Freedom of Information responses from English constabularies revealed half of all 271 reported ATM crimes last year took place at a convenience store. The sector represented just 41% of the 315 instances the year before. The new stats mean one in every hundred convenience stores with an ATM is being hit every year, based on total ATM estimates by the ACS.
RN, alongside the NFRN and victims of ATM crime, is campaigning for more to be done to prevent the problem. NFRN head of political engagement Adrian Roper says: “RN is right to shine a spotlight on ATM crime as the increase – particularly in so-called ‘ram raiding’ – is of concern to members.”
ATM crimes can have devastating effects mentally and financially, as Natalie Lightfoot discovered when her Londis in Glasgow was hit twice in 2016.
Criminals broke in during the night, but were unable to break into her cash machine and stole thousands of pounds of stock instead.
“They took £35,000-worth of tobacco and we’ve only just recovered,” she says. “We borrowed money from family and friends because we had no insurance pay out. It broke me emotionally because we had to make sure all our nine staff members were paid. My husband and I had to go without.”
“There were a lot of sleepless nights because I was worrying if I could pay staff, rent, utility bills and our suppliers. More needs to be done on a national level if there continues to be an increase.”
National policing organisations have pledged to take action against the rising tide for ATM crime, but store owners including Surrey retailer Ralph Patel still feel more can be done. The retailer became a victim in May when criminals ripped the cash machine from his shop during the night, and he feels the police response was unsatisfactory.
“The police came half an hour later after the robbers left,” he says. “They took statements when they arrived, but they then told me they couldn’t pursue it any further because of lack of evidence. It was inadequate policing.”
-70% The decrease in ATM crimes reported at supermarkets last year
+3% The increase in ATM crimes reported at convenience stores last year
Susan Connolly’s Spar in Wiltshire was hit three months later, but she tells RN the communication could have been better. “There needs to be more collaboration between constabularies,” she says. “We had the same criminals committing crimes across two counties, but there was a lot of miscommunication between the two forces dealing with them.”
Despite accounting for 41% of all ATM sites, convenience stores account for 50% of all ATM crimes. According to insurance provider Retail Mutual, a lack of security is the main reason convenience stores become attractive targets for criminals.
£25,000-£35,000 The decrease in ATM crimes reported at supermarkets last year
4% The share of retailer claims made to the Retail Mutual that involve ATM crime
Crime prevention advice
The ACS is one organisation working closely with the government to help retailers prevent criminals from exploiting these gaps. Head of communications and research Chris Noice says: “We’re talking to the government to incentivise materials to add security measures such as bollards or CCTV. ATM crime is rising and it’s very destructive to a small store.”
Elsewhere, Co-op partnered with security firm Smartwater two years ago to install a security system at 300 stores that sprays ATM criminals with invisible ink. The police can then forensically trace the ink back to the criminal. Co-op claims the system, which is being rolled out nationally, has reduced offences by 90%.
Security is an area where Lightfoot urges retailers not to compromise. “I spent nearly £1,000 on a security system that some banks don’t even have following the attacks,” she says.
“Criminals know the security at small businesses isn’t as advanced as security at a supermarket. I did this because it was either do or die, and I know I can bounce back if it happens again. Upgrade your security and insurance. Don’t do what I did and be ignorant.”
RN has spoken to another retailer who warned that they had to pay for all the costs associated with a ram raid due to not being covered by suitable ATM insurance.
For those unable to afford a security upgrade, Connolly recommends working with the community on the road to recovery. “The community helped us recover when we were hit because we created a relationship with them throughout the years.
“The most important thing is to report all crimes, no matter how big or small. Police can be more vigilant if they have the statistics, otherwise ATM crimes will continue to happen.”