SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- San Francisco police are reporting an increase in ATM thefts in 2023. In some cases, criminals have driven vehicles into stores to get to the ATM.
ATMs can have anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000 or more depending on the business. This is happening all across California, but in San Francisco, police officers are reporting an uptick in the last month with at least four incidents.
"We have seen about 15 incidents where the thefts of automatic teller machines or ATMs have been stolen by thieves in different burglaries," said SFPD officer Robert Rueca.
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The latest incident took place last week in the Richmond District when thieves rammed a truck into the front entrance of a CVS store around 2:45 a.m. Tire marks are still visible and the ATM is in pieces.
"We are dealing with certain amount of brazenness," said Officer Rueca, "suspects are coordinated to steal these items."
In the Mission District, we found at least three businesses with similar stories.
"With a crowbar, they broke the door and they took this machine fast from here. In 3 minutes. In the camera, we have it," said Najat Echchoukairi, an employee at Muddy Waters.
Echchoukairi said thieves waved at the camera after stealing the ATM.
Across the street at Randa's Market, the owner Mike Zeidan said thieves tried to steal the ATM, but were not successful.
"About 4 o' clock in the morning, four guys tried to open they broke into the gate," said Zeidan and added, "They had a black Lexus parked in the front of the store. What happened is that they got into the car and they ran. I could see the police right across the street from them and they just let them go. "
The ATM Security Association is tracking these incident and confirmed California has more incidents than any other states with more than 100 ATM thefts reported this year.
"Local crime gangs who are operating within your area within your state. We do see crime gangs coming in from Mexico and also the largest crime group for ATM crimes are from Romania," said David Tente, with the ATM Security Association.
Business owners know the possibility of being targeted again is high, so they are adding more safety measures.
"We had to put a new gate because they grabbed from the gate from the bottom. They pulled it off track. So we had to change the gate and fix the front door," said Zeidan and added, "So they have to go through a chain and three locks if they want to try again."
The ATM Security Association is advocating for a federal law that would turn ATM theft from a property crime into a felony.
"Unfortunately, the penalties are very, very minor. ATM crimes in most states is property crime so typically someone can steal $50,000 from an ATM and be out of jail in a day or two and do it all over again. We are in the process of advocating for a federal law to make ATM crime a felony," said Tente.
SFPD said that when it comes to property crime, there's a policy that prohibits them from pursuing suspects.
"Property crime if it's simply a property crime, that is an instance we are not able to pursue these suspects. It would have to be involved a violent nature like an actual robbery. What you are referring to with these ATM thefts are robbery," said officer Rueca.
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