Money heist, Delhi edition: Instances of uprooted ATMs increase over six months
The modus operandi in all thefts was about the same—the thieves drive a stolen SUV, spray black paint on CCTV cameras, uproot the machine by tying it to their vehicle, and flee
In the past six months, a dozen ATMs have been uprooted and stolen in the national Capital, causing a loss of over Rs 1 crore. In August, two ATMs were uprooted and stolen from Narela and Rajokri. The increase in number of such instances has prompted the city police to take steps to curb such crimes and bring the perpetrators to justice.
Senior police officers said that the modus operandi in all ATM thefts was about the same—the thieves drive a stolen SUV, spray black paint on CCTV cameras installed at the ATM booth, uproot the machine by tying it to their vehicle and flee with the machines and the CCTV camera footage storage device.
An analysis of the reported cases shows that while a majority of the thefts took place in February and March, before the nationwide lockdown was announced to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), one case was reported in south Delhi’s May during the lockdown. Of the 12 reported cases, seven are from southeast Delhi areas, such as Jaitpur, Badarpur, Pul Prahladpur, Govindpuri and New Friends Colony—all bordering Haryana’s Faridabad.
Between February 9 and 14, four such cases were reported—three in southeast Delhi’s Jaitpur, Govindpuri, and Badarpur and another in Mandawali in east Delhi. On March 5, two cases were reported from Jaitpur and Pul Prahladpur.
During Unlock 3.0, two consecutive cases involving the uprooting of cash dispensing machines from ATM booths in outer Delhi’s Narela and Rajokri in south Delhi were reported within three hours on August 5. They not only left the city police baffled but also forced its top brass to constitute multiple teams and intensify their manhunt for the perpetrators of such crimes.
Soon, the police arrested three suspects from Haryana involved in seven reported ATM uprooting cases after an exchange of fire in two separate operations between August 9 and 14 in Delhi and Haryana’s Rithath village in Mewat district.
Two of them, identified as Arshad Khan, 27, and Ahmad alias Kalma,35, were injured in the leg. Khan was caught on August 9 from south Delhi’s Vasant Kunj, while Ahmad and his associate Saddam, 32, were arrested from Rithath village on August 14 by a joint team of Delhi and Haryana Police.
When the team caught up to the suspects, it was surrounded by a mob that assaulted them with lathis and pelted them with stones, the deputy commissioner of police (special cell) Pramod Singh Kushwah said in the press statement released on August 15, a day after the operation.
“Nearly 25 bullets were exchanged between the raiding party and the two suspects. One assistant sub-inspector (ASI) of Haryana Police was also shot in the hand while Ahmad was shot in the right knee,” Kushwah said in the press statement.
A senior police officer who was part of both operations said on condition of anonymity that Khan and the other two men belonged to the same gang that was involved in most ATM uprooting cases reported in southern parts of Delhi.
“This gang comprises nearly 12-15 members, and each member has a specific task to perform in the uprooting’s execution and theft of ATMs. Khan’s job was to drive around the city during odd hours, look for unguarded ATM booths in isolated areas and conduct detailed reconnaissance before passing on the information to other gang members, who would enter Delhi only to execute the crime,” said the officer.
Equipped with necessary tools such as gas cutters, belts or ropes, the officer said, the men would enter Delhi in their own vehicles and before heading to the selected ATM booth, they would steal an SUV. One of them would carry out the final reconnaissance to ensure there was no security guard, police or any danger lurking around.
After getting a go-ahead from the assessor, another man would immediately blacken the lens of the CCTV cameras with spray while the others would cut the cables to disable the security alarms, if any, tie the machine to their stolen vehicle and uproot it, said another police officer from the special cell, requesting anonymity.
“This ATM uprooting technique is new. Earlier, the thieves would cut into the machine using a gas cutter at the booth. But since a lot of currency notes would burn, the thieves devised this new way of uprooting and stealing the machine. Their earlier process was time-consuming as well. But now they hardly take four-five minutes to complete the job,” the officer added.
Senior police officers said that apart from neutralising the perpetrators of such crimes, they are also holding meetings with bank officials, asking them to take preventive measures such as strengthening the foundations of ATMs, installing hidden cameras in the ATM booths and deploying security guards with firearms.