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ATM thefts in San Francisco surge in 2023, police data shows

A damaged storefront with caution tape, a traffic cone, a damaged wall, and a view into the cluttered interior.
A vehicle smashed in the front door of a CVS store near Twin Peaks in an attempted robbery. | Source: Courtesy photo

Thefts of ATM machines spiked in San Francisco from two recorded incidents last year to at least 11 this year, according to police department data.  

Thieves equipped with tools and vehicles are smashing into corner stores, drug stores, shops and bars, making off with cash and ATM machines across San Francisco, from the Outer Richmond to the Mission District.

The San Francisco Police Department said in early December that ATM thefts had risen this year but didn’t supply last year’s count for comparison until Friday. Analyses by Mission Local and The Standard suggest that the true number of ATM thefts was even higher than the department’s data shows.

A list provided by San Francisco police captured 11 such thefts and burglaries between Jan. 1 and Nov. 13, 2023. The department omitted the details for one of the incidents, citing “the sensitivity of the crime.” Mission Local counted 16 thefts, six of which occurred in the last three months. The Standard counted at least three other incidents not mentioned in SFPD’s report—plus a fourth that occurred in December.

RELATED: San Francisco Businesses Spend Big Bucks Fighting ATM Thieves

The front of a bar with a neon sign reading "Clooney's" sits on street corner.
Clooney’s Pub had its ATM machine stolen in October. | Source: Gina Castro/The Standard

The department’s list was created from a text search for the phrases “ATM,” “automated teller machine” or “autonomous teller machine” and included the date, time and location of each incident. San Francisco police did not provide similar details for the two ATM thefts in 2022.

Five of the 10 burglaries on the list happened between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m., with three happening in October and early November. In what was perhaps the most brazen of the more recent burglaries on the list, thieves crashed into a responding police patrol car while fleeing Clooney’s Pub at 25th and Valencia streets around 3:10 a.m. on Oct. 23.

Some of the attacks have taken the form of ram-raiding, where a vehicle is used to broach barriers like roll-down gates or other architected impediments, as happened in the case of an early morning theft on Dec. 8 at a CVS drugstore in the city’s Outer Richmond neighborhood. A similar robbery attempt in September saw a vehicle smash into another CVS near Twin Peaks, shattering its front door and damaging an ATM inside.

A smashed CVS front door is seen.
A truck crashed into a San Francisco CVS store in the Outer Richmond, caving the front entrance in. | Source: Louis Randall

READ MORE: A Frustrated San Francisco Business Wants a Security Gate. Red Tape Is Getting in the Way

Others have been two- or three-person break-ins, like a Sept. 20 burglary at a Lower Haight liquor store that had its ATM and other items stolen, police previously told The Standard. In that case, which was not included on the department’s list, the suspects fled before officers arrived.

Small businesses that run heavy with cash have also been vulnerable to crews’ efforts to yank safes out of walls, as happened at the Lookout, a well-known LGBTQ+ bar in the Castro, on Sept. 29. In that incident, which was also not listed by the department, bar owner Chris Hastings told The Standard after reviewing security camera footage that the thieves “were very clearly professionals.”

“They didn’t pay attention to anything of lower value,” Hastings said. “They were after the safes and found their way to them.”

Bright red sign says LOOKOUT on building storefront
Lookout celebrated its 16th anniversary with DJs, a buffet—and an attempted burglary in the wee hours of the morning. | Source: Astrid Kane/The Standard

Another incident not included on SFPD’s list was the Oct. 2 takeover of a 24-hour Noe Valley doughnut shop that saw a baker ordered to empty out his wallet at gunpoint. Hearteningly, community members came forward to offer support to the business, while police were able to identify, arrest and charge suspects within days.

After that robbery, a nearby business owner told The Standard they were weighing whether to remove their own ATM, fearing vulnerability to theft but also the potential expense of increased insurance costs.

David Burke, an SFPD civilian public safety liaison who follows up with crime victims to provide tips on fortifications, told The Standard he was also seeing an uptick in crimes against small businesses for thefts of ATM machines. 

“This was an active robbery, a gun in your face. Most of these are usually done as a part of a burglary when places like this are closed,” Burke said. “They don’t want to meet the people. They want to get your stuff and take it away.”

The crime is also on legislators’ radars, with U.S. Reps. Glenn Ivey (D-Md.) and John Rose (R-Tenn.), re-introducing HR 3398, the Safe Access to Cash Act, which would make most ATM robberies a federal crime, in May. 

“It’s a very bipartisan issue, I think,” ATM Industry Association Executive Director David Tente said in August. “We’re all very hopeful that it will get attention and get passed if not this year, next year’s session.”

The Standard also reached out to representatives for Walgreens and CVS drugstores for comment. CVS spokesperson Amy Thibault said, “We don’t comment on our security policies and procedures so as not to undermine them” before declining further comment. Walgreens representatives did not respond to a request for comment.

George Kelly can be reached at