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Reducing ATM ram-raids a 'force priority' for Cambridgeshire

DCI Chris O' Brien says he is under "no illusions" about stopping such crime completely, but wants to reduce offending and build on the work already being done with ATM providers, local authorities and businesses.

A DCI with Cambridgeshire Police has said reducing ram-raids is a "current force priority", after statistics revealed that organised crime groups (OCGs) target the county at least 10 times a year.

DCI Chris O' Brien is spearheading an awareness campaign launched by the force at the end of August, timed in line with the finding that such crime is more likely to occur between September and January when the nights are darker. 

DCI O'Brien said: "With these months fast approaching and the intelligence we have, we believe ATM thefts are likely to increase in the coming months and are therefore launching a pro-active policing response."

“Our patrols will increase across the county and we will also be working with partner agencies to target suspects and educate businesses with ATM machines about potential risks, and more importantly any protective measures, that they can take."

Crime data analysed by the force highlights that Huntingdonshire and South Cambridgeshire - with 30 and 23 offences recorded in the past 10 years respectively - are the local authorities most affected.

DCI O'Brien told Police Oracle that being in a "more rural" location can be a factor. "The belief is that there'll be less chance of law enforcement being in those areas throughout the night," he said.

He added that the OCGs carrying out such offences are very organised, and typically  have a "number of locations they want to target on any given night" which they will adjust based on viability.

Combatting this strategically planned crime can only be achieved with proactive policing, something DCI O'Brien admits hasn't always been a feature of the force: "For the last 20 years that I've been in the police we've been reactive, for the large part of it.

"We've waited until an offence has happened, and then we've investigated that offence. But clearly that doesn't work, because these offences keep occurring."

Remedying that previous approach involves engaging with the public, and working with ATM providers, local authorities and businesses. As far as the former is concerned, DCI O'Brien feels the recently-launched campaign is bearing fruit.

The force has received a number of calls since it started, some of which have "led to arrests of individuals, and to recovering of vehicles we suspect may be about to be used in this sort of offending".

Alongside this the force continues to do a lot of positive work with ATM providers, who the officer describes as "very pro-engagement".

Ultimately it is the people who live in these areas who may be able to spot something untoward. "The biggest thing is asking the community to recognise what is not normal in their community," said the detective, who emphasised that the consequences of such crime are not just financial.

"It's the loss of the shop while the repairs are being done," he explained, adding: "We have had instances where shops have had to shut down.

 "I'm under no illusions - I'm not going to stop ram-raids across Cambridgeshire," he told Police Oracle.

"I want to reduce the number of them, but also, around identifying those locations that we think are high risk, we want to work with the ATM providers, local authorities and businesses to put measures in place that if an offence does happen, then we've got some lines of enquiry that we can start working on, rather than starting completely cold."

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