They know how to blank cameras, use gas cutters, prise out cash machines, and cart the booty away without leaving a clue. In surveillance and logistics, they are out-thinking the police and the banks
The heists are quick and meticulously planned. In just 18 days, between June 8 and 26, six ATM heist attempts have been reported in Bangalore. Police have cracked three of them, but the other three heists have left them stumped. Banks have lost Rs 70-90 lakh in these incidents. No one has been hurt or killed in these heists. It could be a single gang of about 10 at work. Their technical finesse has taken the police by surprise. A key investigator told Talk the methods point to a gang “that works with precision.” “They know what tools to bring to cut ATM machines, what cameras to disable, how to remove the ATMs physically, and how to cart them away. They plan the techniques, the timing, the number of men to be deployed… everything in great detail,” a senior police officer said. The gang comprises welders who know how and where to cut, and technicians who know how to unbolt heavy equipment.
An insider job
On June 8, three men used a gas cutter to open a Canara Bank ATM in Sanjayanagar. Police cracked the case when they zeroed in on an employee of the company entrusted with the job of loading cash into the ATMs. Banks outsource this part of the operation to private companies with highsecurity vehicles. “He knew the exact location of the cash. He had told them where the cutting should begin and end,” the investigator said. Ten days later, on June 18, masked men walked into an SBI kiosk at Dwarakanagar near Bagalur, on the outskirts of the city. They disabled the camera and carried away the machine. The ATM had just been plonked on the floor, and not fastened with cement and concrete. “Look at three aspects: they wore masks, they disabled the cameras, and they took away the machine, and not just the cash.
This means they had planned the operation carefully,” the investigator said. On June 20, a three-member gang walked into a Union Bank of India ATM kiosk near the Jnanabharati campus and tried to pull out the ATM, but could not do so. In this case, the machine was fixed to the ground. The same day, four masked men went to an ATM on Ramachandrapura Main Road near Vidyaranyapura. The guard raised an alarm and the men fled. He could not identify them because of their masks. Masks have become integral to these heists. On June 24, a man was spotted in a Corporation Bank ATM near Goraguntepalya, Tumkur Road, trying to stick chewing gum on CCTV cameras in the kiosk. Two beat constables who saw him barged in and nabbed him. The man later confessed he had attempted looting the ATM at Jnanabharati on June 20.
Four crowbars at a time
On June 26, four masked men entered an ATM kiosk at Iblur, off Hosur Road, yanked the machine off the floor and carted it away. This incident is similar to the one on June 18. “They carry four crowbars and use them simultaneously. They know exactly how to remove the ATM from the floor. They are aware how much time it takes to yank out a machine,” the investigator said. Experienced in digging the cement flooring, the gang in both cases used an SUV which could easily hold the machine.
Police suspect four men worked to get the machine off the ground, lift it, and load it into the SUV. The gang comprises members familiar with construction and welding. Police now plan a meeting with bank officials to prepare guidelines to prevent ATM thefts.They are suggesting two armed security guards at each ATM kiosk. But one loophole in such a strategy is that the guards know everything about the procedure of loading huge amounts of cash, and their firearms could in fact enable them to pull off crimes easily. The gang is still on the prowl, so the police and the banks will have to get their act together quickly if they are serious about putting an end to the smart looting spree.