ATM bandits back at it

Leader staff

About 25 hours after somebody stole an automated teller machine in Swan Hills, the same thing happened in Slave Lake. It’s a pattern that is becoming familiar: a sort of criminal road trip, hitting one town after another. Or so it would appear.

This incident took place during the early morning hours of Nov. 8, 2019. According to the Slave Lake RCMP, at 4:30 a.m., somebody drove up to the Petro Canada gas station in Cornerstone Plaza and forced entry into the store. Once inside, the suspects tied a tow rope to the ATM machine and pulled it out of the store with their truck. Extensive damage was caused to the inside of the store.

The suspect vehicle is described as a dark coloured 2003-2005 Chevrolet with a lift kit, 35” tires and after-market rims.

The suspects concealed their identities. One was wearing a blonde wig and blue coveralls; the other wore a dark coloured top with grey sleeves.

The Swan Hills incident happened around 3:00 a.m. on Nov. 7. Security camera photos from the scene showed it happening, but the perpetrators had their faces concealed, and of course the vehicle was stolen.

It sped off in the direction of Barrhead after ripping the ATM out of the gas station.

It’s not known if the two thefts are related.

It may or may not be helpful to know that such thefts are a small part of a worldwide crime phenomenon. Apparently thefts of (or from) bank machines offer a high success rate. Methods differ; a report in the Irish Times in April of this year said in Europe many of the thefts are done by blowing up the machines, giving access to their contents. In one such attempt, the bomber was killed in the explosion. In Ireland, says the article by Conor Gallagher, the preferred method is to use a ‘digger,’ which we’d call a ‘hoe’ or excavator.

In these parts, it almost always goes like this: a stolen pickup truck is used to smash through the front doors. Then a rope or strap is put around the machine and it is towed out through the smashed front entrance, loaded on the truck and off they go. Of course that only works when you’ve got something to put a rope around. The ones that are set into walls are tougher to crack – hence the use of excavators – though it must take significant planning to have one of those units ready for use.

Another article on the phenomenon estimates over $600 million is being stolen from ATMs, annually in the U.S.

Getting back to the recent ones, if you have information on this investigation, please contact the Slave Lake RCMP at 780-849-3999 or call your local police. If you wish to remain anonymous, you can contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS), online at P3Tips.com or by using the “P3 Tips” app available through the Apple App or Google Play Store.

A security camera image from the Slave Lake theft.

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