Chicago Crash-and-grab thieves target currency exchanges to steal ATMs

Burglars target currency exchanges for crash-and-grabs

CHICAGO (CBS) -- In a scene that keeps playing out through Chicago and some suburbs – thieves smashing cars into businesses and stealing heavy ATMs.

Because thieves keep breaking into businesses and taking the machines, owners are advised to remove all the cash before close each night. Some business owners are also now going further and taking drastic measures to keep the thieves away.

The Ashland Division Currency Exchange, at 1545 W. Division St. in the West Town neighborhood, was the latest business targeted for its ATM. The broken glass that was left behind is all too familiar for the owner.

Last week marked the fifth time thieves broke the glass at the currency exchange and got away with the ATM in the lobby.

Crooks are often using stolen vehicles to break down any protection – forcing their way inside. Within minutes, crews carry out the ATM.

It is happening so often that currency exchange owners are ready to fight back.

"Anybody who has an ATM potentially could fall victim to this," said security expert Sean Ahrens.

Ahrens said while currency exchange stores are the current target, he warns that any business with an ATM inside could find itself the target of the growing trend.

"So if you're going stick, you know, $10,000 out in your open lobby, you need to protect that asset," said Ahrens.

The president of the Community Currency Exchange Association of Illinois told CBS 2 the newest measure is "to deter the vandals by making sure the ATM's are emptied at night." He said he is going to further instruct 300 stores across the Chicago area and suburbs to "leave the ATM doors open so individuals looking to break in can see there is no cash to steal."

It is becoming too costly to repair the windows, doors, and glass from the overnight crimes.

"I've recommended to some individuals that have high-value assets - put a GPS on it, a cellular GPS on it, and then once it's stolen, track it back," said Ahrens.

Ahrens pointed out many of the ATMs are able to get carried out because the businesses don't have them bolted down.

"The videos I've seen - they're just sliding it across the floor and throwing it in in the back of the car in a period of time of 36 seconds," said Ahrens. "That tells me the ATM is not anchored."

In addition to securing the ATM, it is recommended that businesses upgrade thicker glass on windows – which is harder to break.

"We're just trying to increase the delay opportunity for a witness or police to respond - or even have the alarm system activate," said Ahrens.

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