Rural retailers in Northern Ireland feel “under siege” after brazen criminals carried out yet another ATM theft.
A stolen digger was used to rip a cash machine from commercial premises outside Dungiven in Co Londonderrry during the early hours of this morning.
It is the eighth such attack in the Province this year, and police have previously said they believe several criminal gangs could be responsible.
And Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts has warned that much of rural Northern Ireland could become an “ATM free zone” if this spate of attacks continue.
The theft from the filling station on Feeny Road was reported to police just before 4.30am. A digger, believed to have been taken from a site a short distance away, was used to tear the machine from the wall at the side of the shop leaving substantial damage to the building.
PSNI Detective Inspector Richard Thornton said stopping the thieves is a “key priority” for police and urged people to come forward with information.
Speaking of his “anger” at the latest attack, Mr Roberts said rural retailers are being “systematically targeted”.
“Our members in every part of Northern Ireland feel under siege, and are asking themselves if they will be next,” he added.
“I will be seeking an urgent meeting with the chief constable and the chair of the NI Policing Board to discuss this crisis and what further can be done”
SDLP MLA John Dallat said the thieves are deprive rural towns and villages of a “vital service which enables them to obtain cash on a 24/7 basis”.
“These people, acting as modern day highway men armed with diggers, are dangerous people and will take their campaign to another level when there are no ATMs left. It is in the interests of everyone to ensure that they are rounded up,” he added.
“These are no Robin Hoods robbing the rich to give to the poor – they are criminal gangs lining their own pockets for their own personal gain.”
Mid Ulster DUP MLA and Policing Board member Keith Buchanan said: “Police must ensure that adequate resources are focused on this crime which is disproportionately impacting upon rural communities.
“These are areas where many have already seen their local bank branch close, and ATM machines are the only source available to access their money.”