Published: 14:42, 26 February 2019
| Updated: 14:45, 26 February 2019
Only three people have been charged for ram raiding cash machines in Kent over the last five years, despite 33 incidents over that period of time.
Data from April 2014 to October last year shows there has been an increase in the number of attempts over the last year, while catching criminals who try to rip ATMs from buildings is proving a challenge for police.
The low number of charges comes after a spate of recent ram raids across the county, with eight reported within six months.
The latest was on Sunday, when a JCB digger was used to rip out the ATM machine outside Co-op in Hopeville Avenue, Broadstairs.
Staff managed to open just a day after the incident, despite the shop front suffering significant damage.
Five days ago, a 4x4 reversed into One Stop in High Halden, Ashford, smashing the whole shop front.
Retired detective superintendent Nick Biddiss said: "The amount these criminals get is completely disproportionate to the damage they do. Repairs cost thousands of pounds."
Jay Karthik, manager of the High Halden One Stop managed to partially reopen the store a day later but said: "It’s going to take us quite a while to fix it.
"The shop front, felling and fitting - everything is damaged."
According to police statistics, there were nine reports of this type of theft from April 2017 to 2018, compared to just two in April 2014 to 2015.
In November, a crane was used to rip out the ATM machine at Sainsburys in Headcorn High Street - this happened just one minute away from Carl Dooley's shop, Vintage Treasures.
He said: "It took me be surprise, being in Headcorn a sleepy little village, nice and trouble free, that the cash machine just gets ripped out in the middle of the night.
"I do not think many people would want to intervene - why would you put yourself in harms way for something that in theory is not anything to do with you?"
The moment a crane is used to rip a cash machine out of a wall in Headcorn
The Sainsburys Local had to remain closed for almost two weeks because of the damage.
Using cars and other vehicles to ram raid shop fronts is becoming the favoured method for criminals.
Of the eight attempted ATM thefts reported in the last six months, five of these were ram raids.
Police statistics show five out of nine incidents were using a vehicle in 2017/18 compared to only two out of nine in 2015/16.
Detective Inspector James Derham from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate said: "There has been a recent increase in the attempted theft of ATM machines across the county.
"However, this is not a crime type that is unique to Kent and is being seen across the country.
"Our officer’s work closely with ATM providers and local businesses to provide crime prevention advice and promote ways in which they can keep these machines and their premises secure.
"Although the vast majority of attempted ATM thefts have resulted in damage to the machine and no money being taken, our officers are committed to targetting offenders and bringing them to justice."
Mr Biddiss added: "The problem is these offences are often committed at night and a lot of them are in remote areas which take a while to get to.
"Ram-raiders should obviously be given a certain number of years in prison. Unless the courts give them harsher punishments they will just keep happening."
Police urge the public to report any suspicious activity or if they have any information in relation to any recent thefts to contact Kent Police via 101.