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The most recent ATM crime in San Antonio happened Thursday, when police said three people stole an ATM using a sledgehammer and stolen truck.
SAN ANTONIO — ATM crimes are up across the country, including in Texas, according to an ATM security expert.
Within the past 30 days, KENS 5 has reported on six different crimes involving ATMs in San Antonio. The most recent incident happened Thursday morning at a convenience store off Fredericksburg and Loop 410, where police said three people stole an ATM using a sledgehammer and stolen truck.
David Tente from the ATM Industry Association said these smash-and-grab crimes have been up since the pandemic.
“From 2021 to 2022, ATM crime went up about 165%,” Tente said.
Tente said store owners and ATM operators can help deter these criminals he describes as trained and experienced.
“They do want to find the easiest, least protective ATM out there to attack because that’s just the way they work,” Tente said.
He said it is important ATM operators invest in bollards, and you can consider putting a GPS tracker inside the ATM. For store owners, he said it is crucial to keep the ATM away from the front of the store.
“You want them away from windows, away from doors and always in the view of some staff there so somebody can keep track of what’s going on,” Tente said.
Some store owners may consider getting rid of their ATM altogether. However, Tente added, that can affect the bottom line.
"It actually brings in a lot of customers,” Tente said. “There are statistics and studies that have been done that show, it increases traffic flow in these smaller stores (by) as much as 25%."
He said for larger companies and banks, some are considering installing ink bombs.
“That’s a system where if the ATM gets moved or titled even, it sets off a system that stains all the currency in there with ink or in some cases glues everything together,” Tente said.
But lawmakers also play a role in helping stop these crimes. In 2021, Gov. Greg Abbott signed SB 516 into law, making tampering with an ATM machine a third-degree felony criminal mischief offense—regardless of how much money was stolen.
“Texas is actually one of only three states that has laws that makes ATM crime a felony,” Tente said.
Even with tougher penalties, Tente pointed out that Texas is still seeing an increase in ATM crimes.
But in Washington D.C., two U.S. lawmakers, Reps. Glenn Ivey (D-Md.) and John Rose (R-Tenn.), reintroduced the Safe Access to Cash Act. It would make most ATM robberies a federal crime.
“It’s a very bipartisan issue, I think,” Tente said. “We’re all very hopeful that it will get attention and get passed if not this year, next year’s session.”