Brazen thieves are stealing telehandlers from farms and using them to ram walls on Co-operative food stores and rip out cash machines.
A number of police forces have reported a rise in thefts of telehandlers, which raiders then use to smash through cashpoints at Co-op supermarkets to steal money.
Since October, five telehandlers have been stolen from across Leicestershire. They have then been used to steal ATMs, containing substantial amounts of cash.
On Thursday 22 January, raiders used a stolen digger to tear a cash machine from a Co-op store in Ibstock, near Colville.
Leicestershire Police have released CCTV footage of the ram-raid, which left a massive hole in the side of the supermarket’s wall. The gang made off with one cash box from the ATM.
It is the fifth Co-op store to be raided in the county since October following similar raids in Whetstone, Newbold Verdon, Asfordby, Sapcote.
Leicestershire Police believes the same gang could be responsible for the attacks. Officers are also investigating why, on each occasion, the Co-op was targeted.
Detective constable Stu Palmer said the telehanders were being stolen from within two miles of all targeted stores.
“Please think about how best to secure your property. If possible lock your machinery away at night in a secure compound and ensure the keys are not left with the vehicle.” Detective constable Stu Palmer
He said: “Before each of the ATM thefts a telehandler has been stolen from the local vicinity.
“Please think about how best to secure your property. If possible lock your machinery away at night in a secure compound and ensure the keys are not left with the vehicle.
“We are looking into the possibility that these incidents are linked and would urge people in rural communities to keep an eye out for suspicious activity.”
Also, on 22 January, 110 miles away in Haxby, near York, a gang used a yellow JCB telehandler to ram-raid a Co-op store and rip a cash machine from the wall before driving away with it on a pick-up style truck. The telehandler was left at the scene.
Farmer Stuart Stark, of Fridlington Farms, Sutton on the Forest, realised his JCB had been used in the raid when his son spotted a picture of the aftermath on Facebook.
North Yorkshire Police are making extensive enquiries to identify the people involved and are urging any witnesses to come forward.
Police forces are urging farmers to take steps to keep their telehandlers safe and secure:
- Ensure keys are taken out of all vehicles on your site.
- Consider fitting an immobiliser and tracking device to vehicles
- Consider installing CCTV
- Use security lighting in yards and drives
- Register all plant vehicles with the Cesar Security marking scheme at www.cesarscheme.org
Anyone with information is urged to call 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.