Northern Ireland news

Police under pressure following latest ATM theft

Damage caused after a cash machine was stolen in Bushmills in Co Antrim. Picture by Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press.

PRESSURE is building on detectives investigating a spate of cash machine thefts after another smash and grab attack in Co Antrim in the early hours of yesterday morning.

A digger was used in the attack in Bushmills, causing damage to the Market Square business.

The digger used in the attack was then set alight by the gang, with firefighters called to the scene to tackle the blaze.

The area was closed to the public yesterday while detectives investigate the scene of the latest in a spate of robberies.

Police have set up a specialist team investigating the series of nine thefts, with over a dozen since the spate began last October.

Meetings between representatives of the retail sector, police and construction industry have also taken place to try and minimise the risk of further attacks.

Almost all have taken place in rural communities and involve the theft of diggers from nearby buildings sites.

Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts, who represents a number of the small businesses who have been impacted by the thefts, said rural communities risk losing access to cash as a result, with many businesses now considering removing their ATM.

Read More: Timeline of cash machine thefts

"This is a shameless attack on a rural town which was preparing for a busy Easter weekend of visitors and tourists," said Mr Roberts.

"The loss of this ATM means that the local community and tourists will be restricted in accessing cash."

Mr Roberts added that every ATM robbery brought Northern Ireland closer to being a cash-free zone which would have a negative impact on rural businesses.

Despite police announcing earlier this year that a specialist task force was being set up to tackle the thefts, there has been just one arrest and no one has been charged in connection with cash machine crime.

Mr Roberts said Retail NI will be meeting the Policing Board tomorrow to discuss the police response to date and what more can be done to prevent further robberies.

Sinn Féin MLA Philip McGuigan said: "People are beginning to ask how this gang can carry out these robberies unhindered."

"I have raised these raids at the Policing Board on two occasions and have been told that a special taskforce has been set up and that progress is being made but yet the robberies are continuing.

"For many years it has been a struggle to get ATM machines into small towns and villages to provide a vital service for the community. These raids are putting that service at risk," he said.

"The PSNI need to catch those responsible to bring these incidents to an end."

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