Finding one ATM gang and giving them long jail terms is a key goal

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial
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There is a risk that the police end up taking the bulk of the blame for the spate of ATM thefts across Northern Ireland.

The response of the PSNI to this relatively recent upsurge in such thefts has been in the spotlight. But while clearly that response must be kept under permanent review, to see if it falls short or if it can be improved, it is more than fair for police officers to say that they cannot possibly be everywhere at all times, and nor can they significantly increase their patrols in remote rural areas all over Northern Ireland without massive extra cost to policing, and subsequent cuts to other key aspects of PSNI operations.

The responsibility for such thefts is much wider than that. Light prison sentences are part of the problem.

We are a society in which almost no offence now attracts more than a 20-year prison sentence, which in any event is typically only 10 years actually served behind bars.

It is evident that there are determined criminals who are not deterred by such a prospect.

Therefore the over-riding objective across Northern Ireland at the moment ought to be that one such team of ATM raiders is caught, convicted and then imprisoned for a duration that will be widely noticed by the public and cause any other would-be thugs to think very hard about embarking upon such an operation.

This will be made more likely by, for example, premises that have ATM machines adopting movement-sensitive CCTV, and ATM designers keeping abreast of the latest tracking and similar technology.

And it is made more likely by people being vigilant about, for example, unusual late night movements by diggers.

Meanwhile, those who at a St Patrick’s Day parade in Cavan last month thought it was funny to depict a digger smashing into a bank inadvertently gave low-level succour to the perpetrators of ATM thefts, which are violent and dangerous crimes.