Shop owners consider withdrawing ATMs following spate of robberies
SMALL business owners are considering removing ATM machines from their premises following a spate of robberies at rural premises, the head of Retail NI has said.
There have been 11 ATM robberies in Northern Ireland in the last six months with six since the start of the year in counties Antrim, Armagh, Tyrone and Fermanagh.
It is believed the robbery of an ATM in Co Cavan earlier this month was also carried out by the same gang.
In February the PSNI announced it had set up a dedicated task force to probe the spate of thefts.
Glyn Roberts of Retail NI said, while he's confident that police are closing in on the gang, many of their members are now considering removing ATMs from their premises.
"What will happen, and is already happening, is that our members will start to withdraw the machines and that will have a detrimental impact, especially in rural communities.
"These stores provide a vital service to the community, with the closure of high street banks, this will mean people in rural communities having to travel for miles just to access cash," he said.
"It's not just our members but the construction industry as well who are feeling the pain of this. Extremely expensive equipment is being stolen and often destroyed by the criminals.
"We've been working closely with the PSNI and are confident that there will be arrests soon.
"We'll also be meeting with representatives in the construction industry to see what we can do to help prevent these attacks.
"There's a pattern to these robberies, usually rural, usually close to a construction site," he said.
"So we'll be talking to our colleagues in the construction industry to see what can be done to further secure sites and reduce risk."
Mr Roberts also added that he has been disappointed by some of the social media reaction to the robberies.
A float depicting a digger removing an ATM robbery was part of a St Patrick's Day parade in Cavan.
"People wrongly seem to think that this is some sort of victimless, Robin Hood-style crime, when in fact the targets are mainly small, independent, family run businesses," Mr Roberts said.
"So what is also important is that when these people are eventually charged and put before the courts that the sentences reflect the seriousness of the crime and are a proper deterrent."