Two Automated Teller Machines (ATM) had last month been blown up early on the same morning, at branches of Santander (SAN.MC) and Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE). Both machines were located across the street from each other close to the Duesseldorf suburb’s main square.
Robbers in Germany are blowing up cash machines at the rate of more than one a day.
In Ratingen, exploding ATMs is now a frequent occurrence. The town lies just 70km (40 miles) from the Dutch border, and investigators say gangs from the Netherlands are the prime culprits for the attacks.
Germany which is Europe’s largest economy, has a disproportionately high number of 53,000 ATM machines. A number that reflects Germans’ preference for cash rather than bank cards. The country also boasts an extensive network of highways, or Autobahns, on much of which no speed limit is enforced.
An estimated 60% of everyday purchases in Germany are paid in cash, according to a Bundesbank study that found Germans, on average, withdrew more than 6,600 euros annually mainly from ATMs.
According to the interior ministry, attacks are up more than 40% since 2019.
In 2021, thieves made away with nearly 20 million euros ($22.1 million) when 392 ATM explosions were recorded, and this figure rose to 496 in 2022. So far in 2023, there have been 47 cash machine robberies recorded by the Police in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, where Ratingen lies.
The Dutch ATM attack Connection
In the Netherlands, the rate of ATM robberies is dropping, partly due to security measures such as glue that makes blocks of cash inside ATMs unusable, Dutch police say.
These security measures have pushed the Dutch cash machine thieves across the border and, are responsible for between 70% to 80% of attacks in Germany since 2018, according to German police.
Police in Ratingen are investigating a possible Dutch connection in last month’s twin raid. A small vehicle that sped from the scene to a nearby Autobahn has been identified.
Dutch police suspect around 500 men are responsible, working in ever-evolving groups as new recruits replace those who get caught. Prosecutors in Frankfurt this week charged six Dutch citizens with causing explosions, theft and property damage.
This week, Nancy Faeser, German Interior Minister, while noting that ATM robberies endangered lives, urged banks to step up safety measures for ATMs.
“Different locations come with different risks. There is currently no one-size-fits-all solution,” said a spokesperson for an a umbrella lobby group for the nation’s financial institutions called Deutsche Kreditwirtschaft.
Germany is also cooperating with officials in Belgium, France and at Europol to tackle the cash machine crime wave.