Security issue: Ram raid

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Results of a ram raid

Ram raid is a particular technique for burglars to gain access to, primarily, commercial premises by means of driving - usually stolen - vehicles into locked or closed entrances, exits, windows, or walls.


This act is occurring at least since the mid 1930s. The term came into widespread use after a series of such raids in Belfast in 1979 which were covered in news reports, and in countries such as Australia it inspired series of similar crimes.

Notably, large trucks are used to break into technology companies and steal high-value equipment for resale on the black market.[1]

Out of town retail parks and industrial parks are often targets after day time business hours due to their desertedness, together with the relatively high-value products often on sale (e.g. electronics).

In recent years, ram raiding using excavators/diggers to target ATM machines has risen significantly[2].

Contributing circumstances

Known circumstances to influence the likelihood or effect of ram raid are presented in the table below:

Contributing Circumstance Influence Description
Lack of surveillance. Decreases risk of detection. A low level of surveillance, particularly round-the-clock surveillance, decreases the perceived risk of detection for a perpetrator and thereby increases the attractiveness.
High levels of ram-raid in the vicinity. Increases likelihood of targeting. The distance to known places where offenders live matters. As Ram raid is is mostly an act that is committed spontaneously, without much planning [3], the crime has a highly situational character. These kinds of crimes are usually committed closer to the criminal's home than pre-meditated crimes[4]. This means that if the crime is situated nearby, the criminals are most likely situated nearby also and the likelihood of them selecting the new location for working area increases.
High levels of unemployment Increases likelihood of targeting High levels of unemployment are associated with higher levels of burglary[5]. As burglary by ram raid and other means of entering are not distinguished, this is assumed to be valid for ram raid too.
Location in suburban area or satellite town or near access route to city Perceived more vulnerable Ram-raiders often travel out of the security-conscious city areas to the softer targets of the suburbs. Police sources and retailers’ data show that the satellite towns around many cities suffer a high proportion of attacks (the main roads which lead to these districts are common sites for the location of out-of-town superstores, and provide a further attraction to the ram raiders).[3]
Presence of ATMs or (attractive) shops High attractiveness Almost any type of premises is a potential target for ram raiding, but ATMs and shops that contain electronical equipment, sports clothing, fashion clothing, jewellery, or cigarettes (usually supermarkets or cash and carry warehouses) are particularly popular targets [3]


Social impact

Ram raid fuels the black economy by facilitating stolen goods to be sold illegally. This has an impact on revenue achieved by national governments, and could also have an impact on provision of social service/welfare.

Economic impact

The economic impact of a ram raid is comparable to the economic impact of a robbery or a normal raid. Apart from the lost revenues, merchandise, the direct costs of ram raids are primarily the result of physical and emotional harm inflicted to employees and employers. But the very nature of a ram raid also implies high repair cost, including the cost of clearing up and the need for temporary security measures (guards). Moreover, potential victims will try to prevent a ram raid, investing time and money in preventative security measures like physical barriers and security equipment. In addition, the public authorities will respond to violent crime like ram raids with detection and prevention, prosecution, trial and detention, etc. The economic impact of ram raids can be measured with the help of economic tools.

Violent crime like ram raids cause economic damage to the economy as a whole (the secondary economic impact). A high frequency of raids, robberies and ram raids can, for example, have a negative influence on local business, property value, tourism, and quality of life (social capital).

Security measures mitigate the economic costs of security threats, but also demand investment in time and money such as security costs (cameras, guards) or the increase in distribution costs as a result of a limited accessibility. On top of that, certain security measures like closed roller shutters (that do not create a welcome environment) can reduce the quality of the area and have a negative effect on business. These so-called indirect economic impact of security measures are explained in more detail elsewhere in Securipedia.

Mobility impact

A location or building has a higher risk for ram raid when it is easily accessible by large vehicles (trucks, vans). In order to prevent ram raids, locations which are more likely to suffer from ram raids (banks etc.) can be protected against ram raid by making it less accessible to (large) vehicles, for example by placing bollards.

However, that would have an impact of the mobility and accessibility in general of that area. For example, one could lower the accessibility of a street for large trucks by putting a barrier on a certain height which allows person cars but not larger trucks or buses, or by making the street narrower. That would also have an impact on the accessibility of e.g. normal public transport (buses) or delivery of goods to shops with trucks. This can be an undesirable side effect of such measures on mobility. With bollards, this effect can be reduced by using movable bollards which can be folded flat to permit certain vehicles to drive over them.

Safety impact

As ram raid is actually a form of burglary, not robbery, the act is usually performed when the shop is unattended, thus ruling out accidental injuries to the personnel. The damage to the shop is usually extensive, which has direct consequences for the extent the shop is able to perform its safety functions, such as

  • shelter from the environment (weather)
  • prevention and repression of incidents (fires, floods, air quality, etcetera)
  • constructional safety
  • facilities to assure a timely retreat to a safe environment for the people present in case of incidents (Evacuation Management).


Potential measures that can mitigate the likelihood or impact of breaking and entering include:

  • Target hardening can greatly increase the effort needed for criminals to enter the object and thereby reduce the attractiveness of an object. Bollards and roller shutters can greatly increase the effort and time needed for a ram raider to enter the premises, thereby increasing the risk of detection and reduce the attractiveness for and likelihood of burglary.
  • Surveillance can be effective to detect crime and if overt, to deter potential criminals by raising the perceived risk of apprehension. It can incur high costs if implemented as dedicated observers, either on location or remote. A more natural form of surveillance is surveillance by the inhabitants (also known as 'natural surveillance'), which can also be effective, provided that the commercial area is inhabited and the inhabitants have a good surveillability.
  • Intervention force is needed to make detection measures, such as alarms or surveillance, effective.
  • Directing traffic flows
    A bollard (and two big flower boxes which can also function as vehicle stoppers) in front of a shop to deter ram raiders.
    can be effective in preventing traffic to be able to get into a ramming position. A CPNI guide [1] gives, from page 18 and further, some practical advice how design of traffic flows can reduce the risk of ramming.
  • Target removal can reduced ram raiding by for example providing means of easily removing the valuables from the store at night.

Footnotes and references

  2. for example in July 2012 (UK example):
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Jacques Christopher, Ram raiding: the history, incidence and scope for prevention, Crime at work: studies in security and crime prevention
  4. Beauregarda Eric T, Proulxb Jean, D., Rossmoc Kim A., Spatial patterns of sex offenders: Theoretical, empirical, and practical issues, Aggression and Violent Behavior 10 (2005) 579–603
  5. Kepple NJ, Freisthler B., Exploring the ecological association between crime and medical marijuana dispensaries.,J Stud Alcohol Drugs. 2012 Jul;73(4):523-30