Robbers target people at walk-up ATMs

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December 1, 2006

Two lives were threatened at the ATM this morning. There was an attempted robbery at the Peach Orchard Wachovia around 1 o'clock, and an armed robbery at an ATM at the Peach Orchard Regions bank just hours later.

This time of year, it's starting to get dark early...which is the perfect place for robbers.

Investigators say ATM holdups happen even more during the holidays, because it's quick and easy cash.

When you walk up to an ATM, you could be walking right into danger.

Diane Leggett's roommate, James Rearden, went to an ATM in the early morning hours.

"He said, 'Give me every bit of money...every penny of what you've got,''' Diane related.

Then she says the man in the black ski mask ran away.

Investigators say it happens several times a week around the holidays...almost twice as many times as normal.

Emptying your account right before the holidays.

Investigators say robbers often sit in a place where they can't easily be seen and watch potential victims walk to the ATM. Then they pick the person they think is the easiest target.

"Most are robberies of opportunity, that's why we tell people: don't make yourself an easy target," Sgt. Richard Roundtree said.

So what makes you an easy target?

Sgt. Roundtree says digging through your purse or wallet, walking through dark or empty parking lots, and getting cash alone without checking the parking lot for people loitering nearby are prime examples.

Those are all things Kurt Jesser tries to avoid.

"If you're going to the ATM, look 100, 200 feet around you, and make sure everything's cool," he suggested.

A lesson some learn the hard way.

"I'm scared to death to go to bed, scared they'll put a gun to your face and tell you give them everything you got," Diane said.

For Diane, her roommate James, and the rest of us, all it takes is one distracted trip to turn you into a victim.

In both of this morning's cases, the victims were alone. The sheriff's office says if you find yourself in this situation, give them what they want, because there's always a chance they may fire their weapon.

Both cases involved ATMs where you have to get out of your car. Being in your car affords you better protection, but you still need to be careful at night.

The sheriff's office is looking into whether these two cases are linked.