Vulnerable cash ATMs must be ‘police priority’

The scene at the Spar on Moira's Glenavy Road after a digger was used to steal a cash machine
The scene at the Spar on Moira's Glenavy Road after a digger was used to steal a cash machine

The measures that banks can take to protect cash machines from thefts involving heavy machinery are limited, so the public should remain vigilant to assist the police, a DUP MLA has said.

Paul Givan said he would assume that the recent spate of ATM thefts is “a top priority” for the PSNI, but believes the local community has a role to play in catching those involved.

Shortly after 3am on Saturday, thieves used a digger to remove the cash machine from a SPAR premises near Moira, just over 24 hours after a similar raid on an Asda store in Antrim resulted in the theft of two ATMs.

Mr Givan has praised the owners of the Glenavy Road Spar for their speed in restoring services to the community.

“They have turned it around quicker than most people expected,” he said.

“That is a very busy petrol station, and there is a restaurant right beside it and some other shops, so the footfall that that shop generates is important in sustaining other businesses as well as the local community that uses it. So I’m pleased that it’s back up and running, but I’m very concerned that it happened.”

The Lagan Valley MLA said he has made enquiries to ensure that everything possible is being done to prevent this type of crime.

“I’ve been speaking to some people in the banks to find out what more can be done to by way of security, but there is only so much that can be done if people are determined to do this so we need people to be vigilant and report any suspicious activity around these vulnerable ATMs.”

Mr Givan added: “It should be a big priority for the police. If somebody strikes, and these machines have just been filled, then it’s a huge amount of money that’s involved.”

Police are investigating a possible link between the Moira incident and the forced removal of two ATMs from the Asda store on Antrim’s Ballymena Road.

Yesterday, a PSNI spokeswoman said: “The investigation into the theft of the ATM machines is at an early stage and police are following a number of lines of enquiry.”

Following the two weekend thefts using diggers, the chief executive of Retail NI Glyn Roberts called for the establishment of a special police task force to protect such a vital community service.

“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,” he said.

Mark McCammond, retail director at Henderson Group which owns the SPAR franchise in Northern Ireland, said: “After the theft of the ATM at SPAR Glenavy Road, we were on site immediately and assisted the PSNI with their investigations.

“We made extensive safety checks and the store was trading again by 12.25pm on Saturday, February 2.”

Mr McCammond added: “Furthermore, by 6.45pm that evening, all other facilities were made available for shoppers including the fuel forecourt.

“We’d like to thank the PSNI for their assistance and the local community for their patience while we worked with contractors to get the store reopened.”