By Ava-joye Burnett

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A recent rash of ATM thefts has brought the issue to the attention of many people in the region but the problem has been on the radar of members of the law enforcement community for months.

In Baltimore, where police say records indicate that ATM thefts have decreased by 50% in 2021 compared to 2020, police are currently working with businesses to give them tips on how to outsmart criminals who conduct this crime.

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Some of the tips shared with businesses include moving the machines from the front farther into the stores making it harder for thieves to maneuver the clunky machines outside and into a vehicle.

Businesses could also use bigger bolts to secure the machine and erect barricades so that vehicles cannot directly smash into buildings in order to gain entry — or even the use of bank dye packs that would emit a dye when an ATM passes a certain trigger point. If dye gets on the cash, it can no longer be used.

Colonel Kevin Jones supervises a team within the Baltimore Police Department that’s trying to stop the thefts. He said ATM theft are down 50% in Baltimore this year, but it’s clearly still a problem.

So far, there have been 58 ATM thefts so far in 2021, but only one arrest.

“How do you feel about that record?” asked WJZ reporter Ava-joye Burnett.

“You don’t feel good at all.” answered Colonel Jones. “But you realize that you’re talking about there is no real rhyme or reason to it. You don’t know when someone is going to strike, so what you do you try to best deploy based on probability.”

READ MORE: Thieves Target Another ATM In Baltimore County, Fifth Reported Incident In Last Month, Police Say

There were two cases just this week alone. Police said suspects tried but failed to steal an ATM on Orem Avenue Sunday. An 18-year-old was arrested in that case.

Thieves were successful in a separate attempt two days later.

“People are trying their hand,” one resident told WJZ. “They see somebody getting away with it and it’s happening, so they’re trying to do it as well.”

WJZ asked Baltimore City Police if this is an organized ring that’s executing the crimes.

“What we believe is it initially started off as a group. We don’t know the exact size of the group, but we know that sometimes there are also copycats,” said Colonel Jones.

Anne Arundel and Baltimore Counties are also dealing with ATM thefts.

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Police in Baltimore City said the machines could have up to $5,000 inside but one store clerk told WJZ that the machines are sometimes empty, so the thieves will go through an extensive effort, only to find an empty machine.

Ava-joye Burnett