Retailers across Northern Ireland “feel under a state of siege” due to the recent spate of ATM thefts, a leading business organisation has claimed.
Police are investigating nine cash machine thefts from small businesses in recent months, many of them in rural areas of the Province.
Representatives of Retail NI, which represents many of Northern Ireland’s independent retailers, today met with senior PSNI officers to seek assurances that everything possible is being done to catch the criminal gangs behind the thefts, and prevent further crimes.
Speaking after the meeting, Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts said: “This was a productive meeting with Assistant Chief Constable Barbara Gray and her senior officers. We greatly appreciate the dedication of her officers in their efforts to arrest the criminal gangs behind these robberies. I feel reassured that the PSNI is stepping up their investigations and the number of patrols
“Our members are being ruthlessly targeted by these criminal gangs and feel under a state of siege. As we approach the weekend Retail NI members are asking themselves will they be next.
“Retail NI is urging the general public to report anything suspicious around building sites or retailers with ATMs. If they see a digger moving in their town or village in the middle of the night, ring 999.
“No small business owner should ever have to face such a threat. We are urging the community as a whole to be vigilant and to stand with our members in these challenging times.”
Echoing that plea, Detective Chief Inspector David Henderson said: “I want to reiterate our appeal to people across Northern Ireland to remain vigilant and alert to any activity that is unusual, out of the ordinary or suspicious, especially the movement of plant machinery late at night or early in the morning. The key to stopping these crimes and getting ahead of the criminals is you, the public.
“Recent attacks on ATMs are impacting our communities on multiple levels. The livelihoods of our local businesses are being jeopardised by the thefts and they are forced to face the additional costs involved in repairing their premises. The populations served by the ATMs, which are often rural, are being denied access to cash facilities. Farmers and construction firms are suffering the loss of expensive equipment and machinery, a loss from which some will struggle to recover.”
He added: “Our dedicated team of detectives continues to investigate the nine incidents to date and local police patrols are actively patrolling vulnerable and high risk locations, however it is not possible for our officers to be everywhere at once and to predict where these criminal may target next. We need communities to help be our eyes and ears.
“If you see activity overnight in or around building sites, report it immediately. Owners of plant machinery, please secure and lock up your equipment, and please consider installing immobilisers – at least one digger theft has recently been prevented because of one. Business owners, please review your security. Consider installing alarm-linked motion sensor cameras if you don’t already have them.
“If you know who is responsible for these crimes, please search your conscience and contact us. These criminals are trying to rip the heart out of local communities and we need you to help us stop them. If you know anything at all, please pick up the phone and call us on the non-emergency number 101 or anonymously on Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. In an emergency or if you suspect a crime is in progress, dial 999.”