Police are asking business owners in southwestern Ontario to evaluate the benefits of having an ATM following numerous thefts of the machines from gas stations, restaurants and convenience stores.
Thieves have targeted 58 businesses in the Brant, Waterloo, Hamilton, Owen Sound and Niagara areas since January 2017, Ontario Provincial Police said Friday.
The thieves usually hit sometime between midnight and 5 a.m., ramming a stolen vehicle — usually a pickup truck or SUV — through the front entrance or windows of the building, wrapping a chain around the ATM and ripping it from the business, police said.
“These guys are driving these trucks right into these businesses, right through the windows — plate glass windows and doors — and it’s not hard to break glass with a truck,” said OPP Sgt. Dave Rektor.
“Everybody has these machines with lots of money in them and they’re easy targets for thieves,” Rektor said.
Damage to a single building ranges from $20,000 to $250,000 and in some cases has left it structurally unsound, OPP said.
The loss of the ATM averages about $10,000, plus repair costs and loss of revenue while the store is closed, police said, while the average profit from an ATM is approximately 20 cents for every $20 dispensed.
OPP are encouraging business owners with an ATM to report any suspicious activity.
“It’s hit and miss, there’s no predictor of where they’re going to hit next,” Rektor said.
But police aren’t telling business owners not to have ATMs and are providing them with information to help prevent thefts, he said.
“We’re just saying you’re going to need to be a lot more vigilant and expect trouble on your doorstep if you do have them,” Rektor said.
Police also are asking owners of pickup trucks and SUVs to ensure their vehicles are locked at all times and the keys aren’t left inside.
“A lot of the pickup trucks that we’re dealing with (in the ATM thefts) are stolen, keys left in them, and it’s just a big recipe for disaster,” Rektor said.