A special team of RCMP officers is investigating after more than 25 thefts of ATM machines in Alberta over the past five months.
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Several of the ATM machines have been recovered but no charges laid in connection with any of the heists.
"It's not a new technique. It's a clumsy one but it can work," said Insp. Gibson Glavin of RCMP K-Division. "In the past we've solved these primarily through assistance from the public.
"Somebody out there in Alberta knows at least one of the people who is doing this," Glavin added. "We would hope they'd come forward."
The brazen thefts have primarily occurred in rural Alberta locations, such as Warburg and Thorsby. However, the RCMP is also investigating incidents in larger locations in its jurisdiction, such as Grande Prairie and Leduc.
Surveillance photos have shown images of hoodie-clad men who have attached chains or rope to the back of their pickups, and are preparing to haul a machine out of a business. In a recently released image, a hulking tractor was left inside a Lamont, Alta. credit union, after thieves had smashed it through a wall to get an ATM inside.
RCMP K-Division has formed a team so that officers can co-ordinate their investigations. Glavin said it's highly unlikely one group is responsible for the rash of thefts.
"In our wildest imagination, it could possibly be one person who is responsible for all of them but I think that's highly unlikely."
It's clear thieves are targeting businesses when they are empty and are purposefully selecting locations with little surrounding activity or foot traffic. In rural locations, the lag time between a store alarm going off and the arrival of a security team or the RCMP may be significant, Glavin said.
Glavin would not comment on whether ATM machines are equipped with GPS technology to track their locations.
"I'm not going to speak to that. While everyone would know that's a possibility, that banks and financial institutions might do those things, it might defeat the purpose of the security process if everyone knew exactly what security systems are attached to them."