A programme to splash the cash and criminals if ATM’s come under attack is being rolled-out UK-wide.

The Co-op has teamed-up with award-winning forensic technology company SmartWater to roll-out the new deterrent with a unique forensic finger-print to link criminals back to the scene of a crime.

In a first, SmartWater has adapted its dispersal technology to ensure that criminals and stolen cash who attack ATM’s are marked with invisible gel. With a reduction in ATM crime of more than 90% when the technology was piloted at over 300 locations in 2016, the technology is now being roll-out to all cash dispensers located at Co-op food stores UK-wide.

Although ATM crime methods may vary – gas attacks are generally in decline; ATM cutting offences are most prominent in the North West: Black Box offences are the key concern in London and, Drag Out offences, primarily using heavy plant, are the key concern in Eastern and East Midlands regions – the technology is effective regardless of how an ATM comes under attack.

Designed by a former Police officer and his scientist brother, the unique forensic signature at each ATM increases the risk to criminals of being tracked and traced by Police following a theft, leading to conviction.

Invisible to the naked eye, an amount of gel the size of a speck of dust can provide the “solution” for forensic investigators to undertake a successful analysis and help Police with identification, with the forensic signature guaranteed to last five years.

Table 1: UK ATM Hot Spots Jan – June 2017. Industry Data Provide by SaferCash, a nationwide security initiative which records and shares information on the activity of Organised Crime Groups, operated by the British Security Industry Association (BSIA)

Region Percentage of ATM attacks
Jan – June 2017
North West 29%
London 19%
South East 10%
West Midlands 10%
Eastern 8%
East Midlands 8%
Yorkshire & Humber 7%
Scotland 3%
North East 2%
South West 2%
Wales 2%

Iain Raphael, Detective Chief Superintendent and Enfield Borough Commander, said: “The Metropolitan Police Service is in formal partnership with SmartWater, with the MetTrace initiative aimed at reducing household burglary in Greater London. As a result, all custody areas have suitable detectors fitted, with all prisoners routinely scanned and hundreds of patrol staff have been both equipped and trained to detect it. We welcome any crime prevention initiative such as this that can benefit from our ongoing work with SmartWater and criminals contemplating attacks on Co-op ATM’s should take note”.

Chris Whitfield, Co-op’s Director of Retail and Logistics, said: “ATM crime impacts customers and communities – it can also have a disproportionate impact on rural Police force areas where cash dispensers are more of a lifeline for residents and the local economy. At the forefront of combating ATM crime this proven technology utilises the latest ATM security capabilities and innovations to cut crime, providing a safer and secure way to deliver a key and convenient service in local communities.”

Phil Cleary, CEO and Co-Founder of SmartWater, said ‘This technical development represents a serious upgrade in the security of ATM’s as SmartWater products have helped convict hundreds of criminals world-wide and retains a 100% track record in Court. Simply, the ATM’s protected by SmartWater now represent too high a risk for criminals and the more professional will give them a wide berth”.

Steve Hurst, Head of SaferCash, said: ‘SaferCash and the BSIA fully supports this initiative, using proven technology from SmartWater will no doubt lead to an increase in prosecutions against offenders. It forms part of the partnership approach and effective interventions which are cracking down on criminal activity and increasing the likelihood of capture and conviction.”