The damage left by ram-raiders is a particularly gut-wrenching sight which not only often results in forced store closure but also costly and time-consuming insurance claims.
While ram-raiders target high-value goods such as cigarettes, their aim in recent years has often been standalone cash machines.
Although figures show that the number of incidents where raiders actually attempt to remove an ATM from a premises is falling, there's still work to be done and precautions for retailers to undertake to ensure the battle against the ram-raiders is won. However, a few simple measures can help put your mind at ease and make criminals think twice before targeting your store.
With some 30 years in the Metropolitan Police, including close to a decade as the Flying Squad's Crime Prevention Co-ordinator, Alan Townsend knows a fair bit about reducing the risks of crime. Having officially retired as a police officer in 2006, he now chairs the UK's ATM Security Working Group and is European Security Adviser for the ATM Industry Association.
He is also a co-founder of Raid Control - a partnership initiative which promotes a package of security measures and training to reduce retail robbery.
Convenience Store met Townsend at the New Scotland Yard building, where he has continued his work with the Metropolitan Police as an independent contractor managing the Flying Squad's strategic partnership strategy in the business community.
Working with partner organisations such as the Link Interchange Network,
his role includes reducing ATM crime, including ram raids. Townsend believes a rush to install cash machines in c-stores in the first few years of this century meant making money was prioritised ahead of security and safety. Ram raids were at an all time high in 2005, but are thankfully falling again. He is adamant that c-store retailers have a major part to play, however, if the downward trend is to continue.
"ATMs are not crime generators but they do bring risks, so they need to be carefully managed," he explains. "A full risk assessment should be carried out and retailers must be fully aware of their responsibilities."
Townsend believes there are five losers when it come to an ATM ram raid: the retailer and their store; the ATM provider; the ATM insurers; the shop's insurers; and last but definitely not least, the local people who are forced to go without their vital community store.
"It can be as long as four or five weeks before a store is back up and running as normal after a ram raid," he explains. "It's important that we continue to cut ram raids as they frequently involve a lot more than one type of crime. Often, a number of vehicles have been stolen and the proceeds of the crime can often fund other offences if a well-organised gang is involved."
So where should retailers hoping to install an ATM or looking to improve their current security measures turn? Townsend advises getting in touch with the local police crime prevention officer as well as contacting the ATM Security Working Group, which has produced security guideline booklets for both standalone and street-based ATMs.
"Retailers can of course also go direct to their ATM provider for advice, but I'd recommend they turn to independent sources first," he says. "There are a lot of parties which have to take responsibility, but if retailers want to help they need to be proactive. There's a lot of advice out there for them."
There are a number of measures retailers can implement immediately to cut their risk of becoming a target for ram-raiders. For self-fill units, for example, it's vital that such machines are emptied every day and that this is communicated clearly in the store. Machines should, if possible, be in view from the front of the store and, outside trading hours, the door to the machine should be left open.
For cash-in-transit filled units, Townsend advises placing signs stating that store staff do not have access to the ATM. A total of £1.4bn cash-in-transit is moved around the country each day, and retailers who are expecting deliveries for their cash machine can make the process safer by providing a secure room in which the money transfer can take place and, if practical, close the store for a short period of time during which the transfer can take place.
Security measures requiring more investment but which provide
significant peace of mind for retailers are anti-ram raid bollards, security shutters and devices which secure standalone machines more securely to the shop floor. In fact, Townsend believes that a large number of ram raids simply wouldn't have taken place had such deterrents been installed.
He says: "High quality bollards outside the front of a store and anti-lasso devices on the ATMs themselves, as well as security shutters, are very effective. They immediately make a retailer's business much less of a target for criminals.
"Fogging systems can also do a very good job as a deterrent. They can be placed immediately next to the ATM, and when they're set off the raiders cannot operate because the room becomes full of smoke. Fogging systems don't damage stock and are even more effective if they're combined with a high-pitch warning siren."
Townsend highlights CCTV as another useful tool at retailers' disposal and adds: "There's been a lot of talk saying it's not necessarily a deterrent, but I strongly believe it's an extremely useful means of solving crimes which can lead to arrests. It may not stop crime completely, but it can certainly be very useful when it comes to convictions."
Townsend explains that potential ram-raiders will often carry out a reconnaissance trip in the days
leading up the a raid. He stresses the importance of keeping an eye on any suspicious activity. "They'll perhaps do things like change the angle of the camera or check on what security measures are in place. If retailers suspect anyone has fiddled with their cameras at all, then they should immediately get them realigned and contact the police."
He adds that it's important that no camera should directly overlook the ATM keypad. Cameras, he says, should give an overall view of the ATM area and ideally face the back of the machine.
While some insurers offer discounts for membership of crime prevention schemes such as Raid Control, Townsend believes they should be more proactive when it comes to advising retailers on additional security measures.
He explains: "Security is very much self-regulated in the UK. More pressure could and should come from the insurance companies for businesses to install high-quality deterrents. You can't have a zero tolerance approach unless everyone plays their part."
Figures for 2007 show that c-stores are the most targeted sector for ATM crime at 26.7%. Across all sectors, the most damaging form of ATM crime - where the ATM is actually removed from the premises - amounts to 12% of the total. Far more prevalent in 2007 at 64% was the crime of an ATM being attacked in-situ, without removing it from the store. However, Townsend explains that in the first few years of the twenty-first century, the statistics were the complete opposite, with a far higher percentage of crimes being successful ram raids.
The figures suggest that as ram raids have become more difficult for criminals to carry out successfully, they have switched to attacking machines as part of a standard break-in. While no retailer would opt for any type of crime to be committed against them, the physical damage caused by in-situ crimes is
considerably less then a 4x4 smashing through the front of a store.
According to Townsend, 2005 was the worst year ever for ram raids. "Everyone realised they had to work together to tackle this type of crime. ATM companies proactively encouraged retailers to improve their
security. The independent sector is definitely getting better, and more retailers are employing their own security managers, but there are
still some out there who remain sitting targets."
He urges retailers to train their staff to carry out correct procedures and not to be complacent - a trait criminals thrive on. He adds: "With physical attacks we're winning the war, but there's more to be done and retailers have a role to play. They obviously need to look at much more then just their ATM. They should ask themselves: 'What can I do to reduce my overall risk of crime?'"
l Alan Townsend is happy to discuss ATM security with any retailer, and can be reached on 07973 818927.
Ensure the ATM is sited well inside the premises, away from perimeter glazing, particularly shop fronts
Ideally, site the ATM against a strongly built internal or perimeter wall that does not have vehicular access to its external face
Signs should be prominently displayed on the ATM and within the premises to the effect that there are no keys available on the premises to allow access to the contents of the ATM
The ATM should be located in a highly visible and well-lit area.
Only fill the ATM with sufficient cash for one day's trading
Always cash and de-cash the ATM while the premises are locked shut and customers excluded
Place excess cash in a safe of adequate security quality
After removing the cash and cassettes, leave the door to the ATM and security container open when the premises are non-operational
Ensure the ATM is visible from outside the premises, so would-be criminals can clearly see it is empty.
ATM physical attacks 2007
Convenience stores............................................ 26.7%
Bank branches.......................................................... 8.8%
Leisure facilities.................................................... 6.2%
Source: BBA statistics