Hyderabad: On 8 February at around 1.50 a.m, the Chityal mandal police in Telangana's Nalgonda district received a call via Dial 100. The caller had witnessed an SBI ATM theft on the highway. The cops who were on patrol 200 meters from the crime spot reached the place. However, the police siren had alerted the thieves who managed to give them the slip. The attempt was foiled and the cash in the ATM remained untouched. The police noticed that there was no security guard at the ATM.

The story, however, does not end there. Two hours later, the Chityal mandal police station again received another call. This time it was about another theft at another ATM located 12 kilometers from the spot where the first incident took place. The masked men walked away with Rs. 7.34 lakhs cash. Again, the TATA Indicash ATM was operating without any security guards. This was the second burglary in the first week of February 2021.

On 4 February a group of masked men stole a cash box from an ATM machine in Adilabad district. The CCTV footage showed how the men had tugged at the machine using a rope and opened the ATM. The investigation found that they walked away with Rs. 20 lakhs cash.

The three incidents are among the many ATM burglaries in Telangana. They have something in common: all are linked to Haryana. Inspector C. Shankar who is investigating the Chityal case explained, "Majority of the accused hail from Mewat district in Haryana, earlier called Nuh. These men travel to different districts in small groups of three-four members. During the day, they conduct a recce of the ATM in the target location. After midnight when all are asleep, they break into the ATM. They first spray the CCTV camera with paint to restrict visibility and ensure their identities are not revealed. Later, using a gas cutter, they break open the ATM and walk away with the cash."

In view of the increasing number of ATM theft incidents, certain banks have embedded a security alarm system within the ATM. "Despite repeated notices to the banks, several ATMs have no security guards. If not during morning hours, a guard should be posted at least during the night in ATMs located in isolated areas," the cop added.

Not too long ago, a team from the Karnataka police visited Mewat in connection with an ATM theft case. However, they were denied entry and faced high resistance from the villagers. The superintendent of police, Nalgonda, A.V Ranganath, said, "The villages in Mewat house these criminals. It is a tedious job to nab the criminals once they enter Mewat due to the resistance from locals and no support from the local police. The miscreants use the wrong number plate or hide it with plaster in order to escape."

How Rachakonda police apprehended two ATM thieves in Amberpet

On 30 November, the Rachakonda cops arrested Mohammad Amir and Mohammed Abdul Afridi in an ATM theft case. Six other accused - Sajid, Azhar, Shahid, Azad, Junaid, and Mohammed Abid Khan - are absconding, many of whom are from Haryana.

According to the police, the gang is well-versed in the workings and mechanism of ATMs and alarm systems. They recce isolated ATMs, spray black paint on the CCTV cameras, and cut the front portion of the ATMs without touching the wires with a gas cutter.

On 11 October 2019, Amir, Afridi, and Mohammed Farooq were arrested by the Abdullapurmet police and sent to Cherlapally jail. Afridi was sent to a juvenile home. It was in prison that they met some inmates from Haryana and formed a gang.

Once released, Amir and Afridi would recce isolated ATMs for Sajid and his gang. On 11 November, Sajid, Azar, Shahid, and Abid came to Nampally by train where they were picked up by Amir and Afridi. Two days later, they went to Charminar and purchased an Oxygen cylinder and an LPG cylinder. They recced ATMs from LB Nagar crossroads to Charminar. The same day, Aazad and Junaid came to Hyderabad. Later that night, the gang went to an SBI ATM in Choutuppal, broke it open, and tried to steal the money. However, they saw a police patrol car and fled the spot.

On 15 November, Amir along with Sajid, Azar, Shahid, and Junaid found another SBI ATM at Mansoorabad. This time they were successful and managed to steal the money from the ATM. They fled the spot and reached Adilabad where they distributed the stolen money.

The Rachakonda police apprehend Amir and Afridi and recover cash worth Rs. 30,000. The Rachakonda commissioner of police, Mahesh Bhagwat, told NewsMeter that their modus operandi keeps changing and the criminals even steal vehicles parked on the road to escape. "I don't want to reveal much about the investigation as it would hamper the probe, but yes most ATM breaks are connected to Mewat district in Harayana. The men collude with locals in Telangana before they commit the crime," he said.

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