The world’s largest independent ATM operator, Cardtronics, has announced it is ramping up measures at its machines in the UK to counter the increasing number of attacks on its machines.

The announcement follows reports of ATM attacks moving from urban centres into suburban and rural locations. Data from the European Association for Secure Transactions shows that the UK suffers from more than 50% of European ATM crime despite having only 15% of the region’s ATMs.

Cardtronics operates machines in the UK under the brands Cashzone, Bank Machine, DC Payments and Omnicash. The new crime prevention programme, running under the Secure ATM brand, includes the implementation of some of the latest technologies, supported by an expert team of external partners, ranging from local police forces through to security technology companies and artificial intelligence (AI) and IT specialists.

The technology employed introduces a range of security measures that make it increasingly difficult for criminals to remove cash from the ATM, rendering any cash that is stolen useless and tracking stolen money with covert devices which lead law enforcement officers to those responsible, resulting in successful arrests, charges and convictions.

The programme started 12 months ago with SmartWater spray technology being added to Cashzone ATMs in Co-op food stores, and is the first example of this cutting-edge system being used within cash machines. The technology uses an invisible, non-washable gel that is sprayed on criminals during an attack. A spot of gel, even the size of a speck of dust, is enough to link an individual back to a particular attack, up to five years after the robbery has taken place.

While the number of ATM attacks in the UK has increased in the past 12 months, the SmartWater implementation at Cashzone ATMs in Co-op stores showed a positive effect. Following completion of the roll-out in late 2017, the number of successful attacks on Co-op cash machines fell by one third between January and June 2018 – compared with the previous six months – against a backdrop of rising crime trends.

Cardtronics is now significantly expanding its security programme including enhancements that make the SmartWater system even more effective across its entire estate of Cashzone, Bank Machine, DC Payments and Omnicash-branded machines

Marc Terry, managing director, international for Cardtronics, said: “These attacks on ATMs are a crime against the community. Not only are they dangerous but they deprive communities of vital access to their cash. We operate over 200,000 ATMs worldwide and the recent spike in UK ATM attacks is truly alarming and far worse than our experience in other countries.

“Anyone planning to attempt to steal the cash from our machines should worry. Our technology, the application of artificial intelligence and our close working relationship with the police means we have an even better chance of catching and convicting the people intent on destroying this vital community amenity.”

Chris Whitfield, chief operating officer, Co-op Food, said: “As a community retailer, our ambition is for stores to be at the heart of local life, connecting communities and bringing people together. There are many people in our communities – including the more vulnerable in society and, many local small businesses – who rely on access to cash.

“The provision of financial services, such as a free ATM, is widely considered to be an essential service, supporting local economies and promoting financial inclusion. Crime affects all operators. And, safety and security is a top priority – the Co-op works closely with police and other crime prevention bodies, employing a range of measures designed to deter and disrupt criminal activity, while increasing the likelihood of capture and conviction.”