Leading article

Alarm over spate of ATM robberies

Serious concerns are growing about the brazen series of ATM robberies which are having a hugely detrimental impact on both commercial and community life in a range of areas.

While they physically involve ripping a cash machine from a wall, they can also be said in a much more basic way to tear the heart out of a neighbourhood.

The modus operandi of the perpetrators has become well known in both urban and particularly rural districts and can certainly not be described as sophisticated.

A heavy digger is firstly stolen from a construction site, usually in the immediate vicinity, and then driven to a filling station or a convenience store in the early hours of the morning.

It is used to smash the entire side of the building containing the ATM, which is then placed on a waiting trailer before the well-organised thieves make their escape within a matter of minutes.

What is left behind is a wrecked business, with staff facing the possibility of at least temporary lay-offs and customers indefinitely deprived of a vital facility.

With so many bank branches having closed over recent years, the task of obtaining cash for day to day transactions is also made much more complex for ordinary people.

The damage inflicted on a petrol station on the Killyclogher Road in Omagh, in the early hours of yesterday followed the same depressingly familiar pattern, and was the third incident of its kind in Co Tyrone alone within six weeks.

Other similar outrages have taken place in neighbouring counties during the same period, and there can be little doubt that they are closely linked.

It is entirely appropriate that, as we report today, police have launched a dedicated taskforce in response to the trail of lawlessness and destruction.

There will be an expectation that arrests will follow swiftly and that the courts will deal firmly with those who are subsequently convicted.

It will also be hoped in addition that the authorities give practical assistance to all the traders who are struggling to cope with the consequences of what has been nothing less than a sustained crime wave.

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