Revealed: Shocking scale of life-saving defibrillators smashed or stolen across UK
- Police data also recorded 155 thefts of the medical devices between 2020 – 2022
- Greater Manchester Police recorded case of defibrillator stolen from ambulance
Hundreds of defibrillators have been smashed up or stolen by criminals, putting cardiac arrest victims at a heightened risk of dying unnecessarily.
Between 2020 to 2022, police data collected and analysed by freebets.com show vandals targeted the life-saving devices 93 times.
Crime reports tell of how yobs kicked and punched public-access defibrillators, as well as using bricks and traffic cones to smash them up.
Police also recorded 155 thefts of the medical devices, with that number having nearly doubled each year – from 28 incidents in 2020 to 43 in 2021 to 84 in 2022.
‘It is incredibly disheartening to hear cases of defibrillators being damaged or stolen, as it means these life-saving devices then can’t be used in situations where they’re needed most’, said Estelle Stephenson, Head of Health Partnerships and Community Resuscitation at the British Heart Foundation.
In South Wales, police said offenders pulled a defibrillator out of its protective box and threw it into a river.
Durham Constabulary received a report of sick pranksters supergluing shut a defibrillator box outside a community centre.
A thief in Northumbria stole a defibrillator from the side of a church after tricking North East Ambulance Service into handing over the code to unlock the case.
And Greater Manchester Police recorded a case of a defibrillator being stolen from an unattended ambulance.
The devices – which sell for as much as £2,500 – come with voice instructions to guide the rescuer through each step.
Once the pads are placed on the casualty’s chest, the device checks their heart rhythm and dispenses a shock if needed.
Ms Stephenson, of the British Heart Foundation, said: ‘Research shows that early CPR and the use of a defibrillator can double the chance of survival from an out of hospital cardiac arrest.
‘In an emergency, nearby access to a defibrillator can literally mean the difference between life or death, providing a lifeline until the ambulance service arrives.’
South Wales Police recorded a table-topping 15 cases of defibrillators being vandalised and 21 being stolen over the last three years.
In second place was Devon and Cornwall Police, recording 13 incidents of criminal damage and 15 thefts of the medical devices between 2020 to 2022.
The Metropolitan police, as well as a number of other forces, refused to disclose the data.
That means the survey’s figures – which were collected using Freedom of Information requests – certainly understate the scale of vandalism and thefts of defibrillators across the country.