Explosive Robberies Worry Banks

Robbers target ATMs in remote or isolated places.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    The spate of ATM attacks is driving up protection and insurance costs for the banks, and police worry that someone will soon be hurt.

  • Facts


    • In 2015, a total of 145 German ATM machines were blown up, with the number increasing in the last months of the year.
    • Robbers seal the ATM in plastic wrapping before pumping in gas and igniting it.
    • A new ATM machine costs about €20,000 ($22,000) – protecting one can cost another €6,000.
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Every year in Germany there are still about 200 “stick-up-style” bank robberies.

But the old ways don’t work so well anymore. There’s a high risk of getting caught, and the rewards are quite low.

Now a new wave of bank robberies is taking a different route. Instead of pointing a gun at the teller, you blow up an ATM. There were 145 cases like this in Germany in 2015: Always at night, usually in rural areas or isolated urban locations. When it works, the tactic can net robbers as much as €100,000 ($109,000).

The plague of new robberies is concentrated in the north-west of the country, close to the Dutch border. The criminal bureau for the state of North Rhine-Westphalia reported 42 cases in the last three months of 2015. Since the beginning of the year, there have been further attacks, notably in the cities of Soest and Bonn.

The police are under pressure. So far, they have failed to catch any of the major criminal gangs involved, only scooping up some small-timers who jumped on the trend. No one has been injured in the attacks yet, but this may only be a matter of time.

It only takes a few minutes to blow up an ATM. The criminals carefully seal the machines in airtight wrapping, then pump in a special gas. They take cover, set off the explosion, then dash in to grab the money cases.

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