An attempt to break open an ATM in Guindy early on Wednesday is but the latest in a series of attempts spanning several years by several thieves to steal cash from these trusted machines. These include some pretty dramatic efforts too.

But according to police records, there has been just one instance of cash actually being stolen after physically breaking open an ATM so far in the city. This happened on Ormes Road in Kilpauk in April 2009. Suspects came in a van and drove away with an ATM loaded with Rs. 87,500. The case is yet to be solved.

Experts insist that it is next to impossible to break open an ATM. The money inside a heavy safe is hidden behind the hi-tech teller machine, and can only be accessed if blown open with an explosive. An official sums it up: “petty thieves are wasting their time with ATMs.”

City police records show there has been at least one attempt to break open an ATM every four months. In two cases, robbers, with inside information on ATM codes, made away with cash from machines in Thoraipakkam and Pulianthope.

In both cases, the culprits were employees of the agency appointed by the bank to load cash. In the Pulianthope case, the key suspect was a man who knew the passwords, and had been suspended from work on charges of misconduct.

As a fallout of the violent incident inside an ATM in Bangalore last year when an elderly woman was attacked by a man wielding a sickle and the subsequent coordination committee meetings between the Chennai police and bank authorities, some banks have started shutting down their ATMs from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., citing security concerns. This has forced people back into long queues in front of teller counters at banks.

C.H. Venkatachalam, general secretary of the All India Bank Employees Association said: “Ideally the ATM and its surrounding area should be well-illuminated and police patrolling should be intense in these spots. There should also be properly-trained guards and CCTV cameras in place.”

But in Chennai, many ATMs are in poorly-lit locations. “Ideally, there should be a consortium of ATMs and common security. This way, the expenditure can also be shared between banks,” a senior police officer said.

Mr. Venkatachalam said that banks should only increase the number of ATMS and not shut them down. “Banks have to serve their customers and not put them to hardship,” he said.

(Reporting by Petlee Peter and Vivek Narayanan)

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