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'It just really hits you': store owners face hefty bills following ATM thefts

Last Updated Jan 7, 2020 at 12:27 pm MST

This Food Mart was one of the locations struck by a thief who made off with an ATM in January 2019. (CREDIT: Alberta RCMP)

CALGARY (660 NEWS) – A common trend surfaced last year when it came to thefts in rural communities.

RCMP said more than 50 thefts or attempted thefts of ATMs were reported in 2019 and there’s no evidence the headache will stop this year.

“In 2018 there was a bit of a spike at 139 total with 39 attempts,” said RCMP Cpl. Deanna Fontaine. “In 2019, we saw 61 with 29 attempts and 32 completed.”

Cpl. Fontaine said that compares to just 66 cases reported in 2017.

While police call last year typical for ATM thefts, store owners like Megan Reuteman are recoiling at the bills they’re left with following the robberies.

Reuteman owns a Petro-Canada in Whitecourt and recalls when her station was recently hit.

“They busted our window in our front door. The passenger, male, came into our store and hooked the tow rope onto the ATM. Then they used their truck to yank it out.”

She adds two men made off with the ATM in just five minutes.

The damage caused to the store because of the robbery far outweighs the amount of money stolen.

The cleanup bill for Reuteman and her family was $25,000.

“In Whitecourt, there is an oversaturation of gas stations in the market. Sales are down and then you have that and it just really hits you. It’s certainly a bad financial year for us.”

Reuteman is now contemplating whether having an ATM is worth it after what happened.

“We’re certainly going over the pros of having one and the cons of having one. This has definitely put a delay in why we haven’t gotten it replaced.”

Several communities in southern Alberta were also impacted by these thefts last year.

Last October, Cochrane RCMP responded to several break-ins and ATM thefts in Bragg Creek and Turner Valley in the span of four weeks.

In February, a 48-year-old man was arrested and charged following a string of ATM thefts in Calgary, Airdrie, Chestermere, Irricana and Crossfield.