Contributed photo                                Criminals attempted to steal an ATM from the Stettler Fas Gas and left the scene in a dark blue Ford pickup truck.

Contributed photo Criminals attempted to steal an ATM from the Stettler Fas Gas and left the scene in a dark blue Ford pickup truck.

ATM thefts in Alberta went up in 2018 and decreased in 2019

Reduce crime of opportunities by having ATM machine bolted down and proper lighting: one expert says

Central Alberta business owners who want their ATMs to remain safe in their stores should bolt them down, says a crime expert.

In the RCMP’s central Alberta district, there were 31 ATM thefts in 2017 (18 attempted, 13 successful).

That number jumped to 47 in 2018 (20 attempted and 27 successful thefts) and went back down to 23 in 2019 (13 attempted and 10 successful).

Provincewide, those figures are 66 thefts in 2017 (31 attempted and 35 successful), and went up to 113 in 2018 (39 attempted and 74 completed thefts).

In 2019, there were 61 ATM thefts (29 attempted and 32 successful) around the province.

Why the numbers were higher in 2018, compared to 2017 and 2019? That would require speculation, RCMP Corp. Laurel Scott said.

“We know they’re (criminals) driven often by the desire to buy drugs, let’s say, but I wouldn’t know why we would have a spike, and then not a spike.

“I don’t know if that’s a matter of different safety procedures. It could have something to do with that — that it is less easy now.”

Jennifer Kee, a crime reduction community engagement and outreach specialist, said businesses can take precautions against ATM thefts by ensuring the machines are securely bolted down. Keeping them away from doors is another step she recommends.

“We would like the ATM to be not hidden, because we still want staff to be able to see the activity that’s happening around the ATM, so you don’t bury it in the back of the store, but don’t put it on display either,” she said.

Kee is a civilian member with the RCMP who goes into Alberta communities to advise residents and businesses on crime prevention through environmental design. She takes a look at the setup of the premises and advises on what can be altered and what can be added to prevent future incidents and criminal incidents in general.

Her basic advice is having proper lighting, a reliable alarm monitoring system and surveillance cameras, and signage stating “these premises are being monitored by an alarm system” or “smile, you’re on video surveillance.

“It doesn’t hurt to let patrons know, because (it’s) possible there are future criminals that are coming in, and we want to let them know that we’re watching,” she said.

Other advice she gives business owners is having some sort of an obstruction between the entryway and the parking lot, such as cement bollards or something similar that would prevent a vehicle from backing through the building or into the business.

Lately, Kee has been busy with rural crime in the province.

“But one particular corner of Alberta is nowhere less inclined than anywhere (else),” she said.