Center for Problem-Oriented Policing

Understanding Your Local Problem

The information provided above is only a generalized description of ATM robbery. You must combine the basic facts with a more specific understanding of your local problem. Analyzing the local problem carefully will help you design a more effective response strategy.

Asking the Right Questions

The following are some critical questions you should ask in analyzing your particular problem of ATM robbery, even if the answers are not always readily available. Your answers to these and other questions will help you choose the most appropriate set of responses later on.

Incidents

  • How many robberies are related to ATMs? (When counting incidents, remember that a few ATM robbery victims will also have been assaulted, raped, kidnapped, or murdered, and the incident will be classified by the more serious offense. These more serious offenses may not significantly alter the statistical picture of the problem, but they may well have a significant effect on the public's fear of ATM robbery.) Mapping techniques alone will not reveal the relationship between robberies and ATMs—some robberies occur away from ATMs after offenders follow ATM customers, while some robberies only coincidentally occur near ATMs. You will need to review the entire police reports to determine how robberies and ATMs are related.
  • What percentage of all robberies in your jurisdiction are ATM robberies? What percentage of street robberies are ATM robberies?
  • What percentage of ATM robberies and attempted robberies do you estimate are reported to police?
  • Is the current incidence of ATM robberies increasing or decreasing?
  • Which pattern of ATM robbery is most common? Robbery near ATMs after withdrawals? Robbery away from ATMs after withdrawals? Forced withdrawals? Offenders use stolen ATM cards? Other valuables stolen at ATMs?
  • Have any civil suits resulting from ATM robberies been filed against ATM operators in your jurisdiction? If so, what can you learn about the problem from these civil suits? (For example, what were the specific claims against the vendors? Did they relate to inadequate security measures or ATM locations? Who prevailed in the suits, and on what grounds?)

Victims

  • Who are the victims? Are there any noticeable demographic patterns among them? Age? Gender? Occupation?
  • Are there repeat robbery victims?
  • What percentage of victims are injured during robberies? How serious are the injuries?
  • How do victims typically react to demands for their money? Do they resist or comply? If they resist, how do they do so? How do offenders respond to victims' actions?
  • What percentage of attempted robberies are thwarted by the victim? By others intervening?
  • How much money do victims typically lose?
  • Do victims follow the standard safety precautions? (See response 7 in the following section for examples of standard safety precautions for ATM users.) If not, which ones are not followed? Why do victims say they fail to follow certain safety precautions?
  • Are victims usually alone when robbed?

Offenders

  • Do the offenders specialize in ATM robbery, or do they commit other types of crime as well?
  • What percentage of ATM robberies are committed by repeat offenders? How prolific are the worst offenders? Are there any common characteristics of repeat ATM robbers? How do ATM-robber characteristics compare with those of other robbers?
  • Do offenders usually work alone?
  • What types of weapons do offenders use or threaten to use?
  • What percentage of offenders commit robbery for money to buy drugs? What percentage are intoxicated by drugs or alcohol during the robbery? What drugs are most commonly associated with ATM robbery? (Local data on arrestees' drug usage, if available, may provide partial answers to these questions.)

Locations/Times

  • When do the ATM robberies occur? During the day, or at night? Time? Day of week? Time of month? Time of year?
  • In what area do the ATM robberies occur?
  • Are robberies more likely to occur at walk-up or drivethrough ATMs? At indoor or outdoor sites? On bank premises or at off-premise sites?
  • What percentage of ATM robberies occur at repeat locations?
  • Are some banks' ATMs the site of robbery more than others'? Are some banks' ATMs much less likely to be the site of robbery? Are there any obvious factors that distinguish high-robbery ATMs from low-robbery ATMs?
  • Are the ATMs where robberies occur most frequently in areas otherwise considered to be at high risk for crime and disorder? Near street drug markets?
  • What security features and environmental conditions are present at high-robbery ATMs and low-robbery ATMs (e.g., proper lighting, clear visibility, locked vestibules, surveillance cameras, rearview mirrors, natural surveillance)?
  • What paths do offenders take entering and escaping from the crime scene around ATMs?
  • Why do ATM operators locate high-robbery ATMs at the particular sites (i.e., why do they believe those particular sites will attract customers)? Do the same factors that make ATM locations attractive for ATM operators also make them attractive for ATM robbers? Are high-robbery sites more or less profitable for ATM operators than the average ATM sites?

Current Responses

  • Do police and ATM operators have an effective working relationship? Is information about ATM crime shared freely? Are police apprised of all ATM sites within the jurisdiction?
  • Do ATM operators analyze robbery trends and respond appropriately?
  • Do police routinely review site plans and/or business permit applications for ATMs?
  • Does the law applying to your jurisdiction mandate minimum ATM security standards? (See the "Imposing Mandatory Minimum Security Standards" section below.) Are the applicable standards adequate? Do ATMs in your jurisdiction comply with those standards? Who is responsible for monitoring and enforcing compliance? Is it being done adequately?
  • Regardless of whether there are mandatory security standards, do ATMs in your jurisdiction meet all or most of the security standards discussed in this guide? If not, which security standards are most commonly lacking?
  • Do police and other criminal justice agencies operate repeat offender programs?
  • What is the clearance rate for ATM robberies? Is this figure higher or lower than the overall norm for robberies?
  • Do ATM cameras effectively identify offenders?

Measuring Your Effectiveness

Measurement allows you to determine to what degree your efforts have succeeded, and suggests how you might modify your responses if they are not producing the intended results. You should take measures of your problem beforeyou implement responses, to determine how serious the problem is, and afteryou implement them, to determine whether they have been effective. All measures should be taken in both the target area and the surrounding area. (For more detailed guidance on measuring effectiveness, see the companion guide to this series, Assessing Responses to Problems: An Introductory Guide for Police Problem-Solvers.)

The following are potentially useful measures of the effectiveness of ATM robbery responses:

  • number of ATM robberies and attempted robberies reported to police,
  • percentage of ATMs that are robbery-free,
  • number and severity of victim injuries during ATM robberies,
  • total and average cash losses incurred by victims,
  • degree to which ATM robbery is displaced geographically or to other types of crime, and
  • degree to which other crimes decrease in the areas around ATMs (otherwise known as a diffusion of benefits).