Warning that cash machine thefts could contribute to rural areas becoming ‘ATM free zones’

Retail NI has urged the PSNI to ensure that sufficient resources are being dedicated to tackling the problem of cash machine thefts, warning that “many rural areas of Northern Ireland could become ATM free zones.”

A digger was used to rip two ATMs from the wall of a building at the Asda supermarket in Antrim in the early hours of Friday, February 1. Photo by Matt Mackey, Press Eye

A delegation from the organisation, which represents many independent retail businesses across Northern Ireland, met with senior police officers at Musgrave Street Station today to discuss the impact such crimes have on local retailers and communities.

The meeting was arranged following a spate of cash machine thefts across the Province in recent months – many of them in rural areas.

In a number of thefts stolen diggers have been used to rip the ATMs from the outer walls of business premises.

Retail NI has warned that the ongoing thefts, combined with the loss of rate relief on ATMs and added transaction charges, is creating “a perfect storm of problems around rural ATMs.”

Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts said: “We are satisfied that the PSNI is taking this issue very seriously at a senior and strategic level.

“This was a very useful meeting with the PSNI and we urged them to ensure that resources are put in to tackling this problem.

“These robberies have cost our members hundreds of thousands of pounds and the criminal gangs behind them belong behind bars for a very long time.”

He added: “With so many bank branch closures, our members provide an invaluable service to many rural communities to access cash. Unless we see a crack down on the robberies, a restoration of the rate relief and resolution on the transaction charge, many rural areas of Northern Ireland could become ATM free zones, which will have a negative impact upon consumers and rural communities.”

Chief Superintendent Jonathan Roberts, who took part in the meeting, commented: “Police fully understand the impact on a community, and the cost to a business targeted by criminals who go to considerable lengths to steal ATMs.

“Not only does this type of crime have a considerable impact on communities, but there is also a significant price to be paid by the business targeted.

“A dedicated team of Criminal Investigation Department detectives across Northern Ireland continues to investigate these incidents, and is proactively progressing enquiries to identify and apprehend those responsible.

“Police continue to work alongside retailers and banks and would encourage businesses to regularly review their crime prevention measures to minimise their risk of becoming a victim of crime.

“I encourage those either using or storing heavy lifting machinery like telescopic handlers and diggers on sites or facilities near commercial premises to ensure that these machines are kept locked, secured and immobilised to prevent theft.

“More generally, I would also encourage people who live close to businesses like filling stations and local shops to contact police immediately if they see any unusual activity or people in the area. For example, if you hear machinery late at night or in the early hours please let us know. Report any power outages close to commercial premises during the hours of darkness via 101. Also, if you see people or vehicles appearing to pay particular attention to certain premises, call police on 101. In an emergency or if you suspect a crime is in progress, dial 999.”