Police launch dedicated task force to probe ATM thefts in Northern Ireland following spate of robberies
POLICE have set up a dedicated task force to probe ATM thefts in Northern Ireland following a spate of recent robberies.
A team of PSNI detectives are investigating the recent cash machine crime spree, which has seen six ATM thefts over the past six months.
In Co Tyrone alone, there have been three thefts within the last six weeks, including yesterday's robbery near Omagh when a cash machine was ripped from the wall of a service station.
A digger was used to remove the cash machine from the Glendale filling station on the Killyclogher Road.
CCTV footage shows the vehicle ripping the machine from the wall before it is loaded onto the back of a trailer and taken away.
The service station, run by the McCullagh family, have been in business for more than 40 years. Significant damage was caused to the wall of the station.
Police last night said they are investigating the possibility that recent thefts across the north may be linked.
It is also understood that a dedicated team of detectives are probing the crime spree and associated criminalities following recent ATM thefts.
PSNI Detective Chief Inspector David Henderson said: "Each incident has followed a very similar process of targeting premises, before using plant machinery to remove ATMs from the exterior façade.
"This caused significant damage to the property, as well as causing disruption to the business targeted and the local community.
"At this stage, officers are investigating the possibility that these incidents may be linked. Enquiries are continuing and we continue to work hard to identify the perpetrators.
"At present, criminal investigation department detectives across Northern Ireland have been tasked to investigate these incidents and are pro-actively progressing enquiries, to identify and apprehend those involved."
Politicians and business figures said the ATM thefts were an "attack on the community", particularly in rural areas where people rely on the service.
Sinn Féin assembly member Declan McAleer said yesterday's robbery was a "reprehensible attack".
"These people know what they are doing, it was about 90 seconds from when the attack started until the ATM machine was in the trailer - they knew what they were doing.
"People in the community are disgusted, just last month an attack on the ATM machines in Killyclogher was just about a mile from here. Recently there was an attack on Fintona, attacks on Garvaghy, Carrickmore, Greencastle.
"There has been a cluster of robberies within a 10 to 20 mile radius, so this is a very worrying trend."
Mr McAleer added that this was a "family owned business providing a vital service for the community".
"Many businesses are contemplating getting rid of the machines because of what has been happening," he said.
"But there is a reliance on these machines, the community will suffer even more if they are not available."
He added that he would be meeting with police on Monday and would be asking "what measures are being put in place" to tackle the thefts.
SDLP assembly member Daniel McCrossan described the theft as "deplorable" and said he was worried there had been few PSNI prosecutions.
"This theft is yet another example of criminals targeting rural areas where they think they can get away with these deplorable acts," he said.
"There has been a scourge of ATM thefts across the north recently and many of these have happened in Tyrone.
"I do have concern that so many of these thefts are happening yet I am seeing very little in terms of arrests, prosecutions and indeed preventative action by the PSNI.
"Today I have written to the chief constable to demand action and for an update on the Glendale service station ATM theft."
Glyn Roberts from Retail NI said "vulnerable rural communities are losing out" as a result of the attacks.
"This is a serious problem that is not only seeing the impact this is having on our members, but also the local community," he said.
"This is another disgraceful attack on an independent retailer.
"It is has caused extensive damage to a local retailer that provides an invaluable service to the local community.
"With four ATM robberies in the past month, these attacks are now a major problem for local retailers.
"Retail NI is meeting with the PSNI on 26 February to press for urgent action to tackle these criminal gangs.
"With so many bank branch closures in rural towns and villages in recent years, our members’ ATMs provide an invaluable service to their local communities.
"There is a real danger our members could start to remove these ATMs if these attacks continue."