ATM thieves put on notice

Thieves devastated the front of the Jarvis Food Market earlier this month when they used a vehicle to forcibly remove a cash-dispensing machine. The market has re-opened but the entryway where the theft occurred remains boarded up. MONTE SONNENBERG / SIMCOE REFORMER

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Norfolk OPP are lying in wait for thieves who specialize in stealing automated teller machines.

When the culprits find out what the OPP have in store, it will likely be too late for them.

“We have an ongoing operation involving ATMs and that’s all I’ll say about that because it is operational,” Insp. Joe Varga, chief of the Norfolk OPP, told Norfolk’s Police Services Board Wednesday. “What we’re telling people is – if you’re not making money off them – get rid of them.”

Generic ATMs are an attractive target for thieves who think they contain thousands of dollars. In fact, most generic ATMs might contain a few hundred dollars. As well, many businesses empty them at night as a precaution.

Yet attempts to steal ATMs have proven to be a frequent, expensive crime in the local area and beyond over the past year.

In a typical heist, a gang will steal a pickup truck, use it to bust through the facade of a store in the middle of the night, attach a rope or chain, and forcibly remove the ATM from the property.

The crime can be over in a few minutes.

But as recent thefts at the Esso station in Port Rowan and the Food Market in Jarvis illustrate, structural damage can be in the tens of thousands of dollars. Adding to the cost are the days and weeks a business is closed while contractors repair the damage.

Businesses set up ATMs as a convenience for customers who want to make an unexpected cash purchase. Not only do the machines facilitate commerce, business owners add to their bottom line by charging a transaction fee.

MSonnenberg@postmedia.com

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