Leading article

ATM raiders must be apprehended and brought before courts

It is alarming that, despite the setting up of a specialist PSNI taskforce, gangs are continuing to rip out ATMs and cause extensive damage to property, apparently at will.

The latest theft took place at a Tesco store on the Larne Link Road in Ballymena around 3am yesterday.

On this occasion, it seems the police did come close to apprehending the thieves, who were spotted driving away from the area with two stolen ATMs loaded onto the back of the pick-up truck.

The criminals managed to get away after abandoning the vehicle and the cash machines but not before leaving behind a trail of destruction, including setting fire to a tractor and digger used in the robbery.

These vehicles are believed to have been stolen, possibly from a building site closed for the Easter holiday.

So far this year, 12 ATMs have been stolen in Northern Ireland in ten separate incidents. Further thefts have also taken place across the border.

What is troubling is that these are serious crimes that are taking place in plain sight. The gangs are mounting fairly large scale thefts involving heavy machinery. These raids are neither quick nor quiet, yet the criminals seem to have little fear of being caught.

Last week, a digger was used to rip two cash machines from the wall of a Tesco store in Crumlin, Co Antrim. The ATMs were lifted onto a pick-up truck and the digger was set alight, blocking Main Street in the town and causing widespread disruption to business.

It has to be acknowledged that given the geographical spread of incidents, police face an enormous challenge in keeping a watch on potential targets.

They are asking owners of heavy plant machinery to tighten security and this is clearly an essential step.

Other deterrent measures also need to be considered while anyone with information must come forward.

This spate of robberies must be brought to an end and the culprits arrested and brought before the courts.

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