Police are urging members of the public to report suspicious activity around ATM machines in a bid to avoid an increase in ram raids this autumn. 

In response, the force is increasing patrols and showing its support for an “adopt an ATM” initiative run by an arm of Neighbourhood Watch called ATM Watch. 

The scheme is designed to create “protective bubbles” around ATM machines across the county. 

Chairman of the Peterborough Neighbourhood Watch Association, Alan Paul, said: “ATM Watch is an additional preventative measure to all the things already in place to help prevent ram raids, including anti-ram raid pillars, alarms, police patrols, and CCTV. 

“ATM Watch is an arm of Neighbourhood Watch and is set up in much the same way on the Cambridgeshire Neighbourhood Watch Association website, but it has a primary focus on ATMs. 

“It uses a ‘cocoon watch’ principle, a concept initially developed by the Home Office in the early 2000s for burglary projects, where all local businesses and houses surrounding an ATM are encouraged to take part and form an all-seeing all-hearing protective bubble around the machine.  

“This winter, we are asking the public to ‘adopt’ their local ATM and keep an eye out for suspicious activity around it, to try to prevent these destructive crimes in our towns and villages. 

“We recognise not all ATM locations will be suitable due to building structure, layout of premises and absence of local residents, but we believe there are many that would benefit.” 

To find out more about the scheme and how to get involved, visit the Ourwatch website. 

Detective chief inspector Chris O’Brien said: “Initiatives like these are so important in helping raise awareness of these destructive crimes and hopefully going some way to tackle the issue before the crime occurs.  

“Ram raids often take place between October and January when the nights are darker. With these months upon us and the intelligence we have, we believe ATM thefts are likely to increase in the coming months and are therefore launching a proactive policing campaign. 

“Our patrols will increase across the county and we will also be working with partner agencies, including ATM Watch, to target suspects and educate businesses with ATM machines about potential risks and, more importantly, any protective measures they can take.” 

He added: “We are committed to making it harder for ATM thieves to target our local shops and ATM machines and will be targeting areas we believe are at increased risk - but we can’t do it alone. 

“We need the public’s help to report anything suspicious or anything they see that might not seem quite right, no matter how small or insignificant. One call could make all the difference and potentially stop somewhere being targeted.” 

Police and Crime Commissioner, Darryl Preston, who officially launched ATM Watch in Fenland Hall, March, on Wednesday (November 22) said: “These sorts of crimes can devastate communities and have long-lasting effects on employees and local residents alike. 

“Preventing crime from happening in the first place is one of my key priorities and its innovative initiatives such as ATM Watch which can play a huge part in stopping this kind of crime. I applaud the efforts of all those who volunteer their time to support our police to keep us all safe.” 

Officers will be increasing their regular patrols and members of the public are being asked to: 

Ensure vehicles have working trackers installed - particularly owners of high-performance cars and heavy vehicles, such as Transits and flat beds, which could be used to ram an ATM 

Consider installing video doorbells or CCTV on your home, they might just capture something vital 

Report anything suspicious, for example people scoping houses or tampering with number plates 

Report any instances of unauthorised people paying close attention to ATMs, including taking photos or attaching ‘out of order’ signs to give an impression the machine is not working properly 

Raise concerns about anything that doesn’t feel quite right, such as plant vehicles travelling during the hours of darkness 

Report high-performance or plant vehicles that are not usually in the area and appear to have been left parked for a few days 

Concerns or information can be reported online or by calling 101, quoting Op ATMosphere. Always call 999 in an emergency.