Wigan police join massive regional operation targeting cash robberies

Greater Manchester Police is one of six forces involved in the campaign in the run-up to Christmas.

Tuesday, 8th December 2020, 10:01 am
Updated Tuesday, 8th December 2020, 11:34 am
Police are cracking down on cash in transit and ATM robberies

Police are teaming up with the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit (ROCU) and the security industry to crack down on cash in transit and ATM robberies.

Officers will be working to ensure security vehicles can carry out their normal work as well as protecting businesses and raising awareness of the problem on social media.

There has been a fall in recent times in the number of incidents involving cash machines or vehicles carrying money being targeted by criminals, but police forces are leaving no room for complacency.

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That is because, concerningly, the North West is a major hotspot for this type of criminal activity, with a campaign launch event on Tuesday sharing a number of alarming statistics about how prevalent ATM and cash in transit robberies are here compared to the rest of the country.

Operation Shadow recently saw six men jailed for more than 15 years combined for using angle grinders to cut into ATMs and steal money in Wigan and Bolton.

ATM robberies can also involve criminals using combustible gas to blow up cash machines as well as the ATM being dragged from the wall or broken into with cutting equipment.

The police forces involved in the latest operation have all signed up to ATMosphere, a national operation created in partnership with the British Security Industry, which provides standard guidance to enable the police to develop closer working relationships with local communities and businesses to combat ATM crime.

Chief Inspector Chris Mossop, Operation ATMosphere lead at Greater Manchester Police, said: "ATM theft is not a victimless crime; these incidents put lives at risk, and can have a significant impact on wider communities.

"Explosives can be used to aid ATM thefts, putting the public at risk, including emergency responders first on scene and also cause a significant amount of damage, affecting surrounding areas and local businesses. In addition, it can reduce the availability for communities to access money, and if damaged, it can become uneconomically viable for industry to keep the machines in service.

"Operation ATMosphere has been developed to ensure all forces across the country have a consistent approach to tackling ATM robberies and help ensure frontline officers are specially trained to deal with these types of criminals, and also to help increase awareness amongst the public.

"It is important we all remain vigilant, and if you do have concerns about suspicious activity in your local area then please call us."

The latest crackdown will involve armed police vehicles escorting high-risk security employees as they carry out cash deliveries, CCTV monitoring and patrol cars following cash-handling vehicles.

In addition, all cash containers will include DNA marking solutions or a dye which will be released when they are opened, marking the notes so they are both unusable and traceable.

The operation follows significant success since 2019 in combating cash-in-transit and ATM robberies across the region, with more than 160 offenders being convicted and sentenced to more than 1,000 years in prison.

However, there remain major issues with organised criminal groups targeting cash in the North West.

Just over a quarter of all ATM attacks in the country between January and November this year happened in the region.

The North West accounted for a third of all drag-out incidents, where ropes, chains or heavy plant equipment is used to tear cash machines from walls.

And since March 2019 a massive 85 per cent of attacks on ATMs involving explosives have happened in the North West.

Police say both types of incident are carried out with no regard for public safety and pose risks to residents' lives as well as causing large amounts of damage.

The North West also has the highest numbers of cash in transit robberies of any region since 2017 and has had most incidents of this kind in 2020 so far.

There have also been worrying increases in the use of weapons, both firearms and blades, and in members of staff being assaulted during cash in transit robberies.

Police believe most of the offending they are dealing with in the North West is the work of local organised crime groups.

Detective Chief Inspector Mike Ankers from the ROCU’s Regional Intelligence Unit, said: "The region has seen a significant fall in cash-in-transit robberies in recent years but we are not complacent and we are determined to make sure criminals do not see these types of offences as easy ways to make money, because they most definitely are not.

"Whilst cash in transit and ATM robberies have reduced across the North West, we will not rest on our laurels and we will continue to work with the six North West police forces and our partners in the Security Industry to share intelligence provide assistance and ensure we continue to see year on year reductions.

"Robberies that target cash in transit vehicles, banks, post offices and commercial businesses are often violent offences that can result in life-changing mental and physical scars to those at the brunt of the attacks, who are just trying to make an honest living.

Sarah Staff, head of SaferCash, a security initiative hosted by the British Security Industry Association, said: “We really welcome opportunities to work alongside police forces in the North West region and fully support this proactive Christmas campaign.

"Our members continue to strive to reduce the number of cash in transit robberies and ATM attacks with enhanced physical security systems, with the collaborative efforts of UK Policing.

"The supply of cash and the availability of ATMs are often the lifelines of local communities, especially during the past 12 months. These types of attacks create a profound impact to all affected, whether owner, employee or member of the community.

"The collaboration between the police and the security industry through SaferCash has been in place for many years. This strong working partnership is a real testimony to collectively tackling crime, with a focus on crime prevention in addition to the excellent enforcement work by the police. This has resulted in many convictions and a significant disruption of organised crime."

Anyone who witnesses a crime or has suspicions about illegal behaviour can call the police on 101 or ring independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. In an emergency, residents should dial 999.

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