Northern Ireland

Rural ATM thefts: Retailers warn service could be withdrawn

ATM thefts
Image caption A digger was used by thieves to remove the ATM at Glendale filling station in Omagh on February 15

Representatives of Northern Ireland businesses have met police to discuss a recent spate of thefts of ATMs in rural areas.

There have been six such thefts at locations across Northern Ireland in the last six months.

Retailers have expressed concerns that the constant attacks could force them to withdraw the service.

It comes as businesses also suffer the loss of rate relief on the machines due to the suspension of the NI Assembly.

The removal of rate relief means retailers have been landed with an additional tax bill of between £5,000 and £8,000 for having an ATM on their premises.

In addition, the largest provider of ATMs has announced an end to free transactions.

Image caption Glyn Roberts warned that rural areas could become ATM free zones

A delegation from Retail NI met with senior police officers in Belfast on Tuesday to discuss the recent thefts.

Retail NI Chief Executive Glyn Roberts said that unless action is taken "many rural areas of Northern Ireland could be ATM free zones which will have a negative impact upon consumers and rural communities".

"It is obviously not just the damage to the ATM, it is the damage done to the store, the increased insurance premiums, the impact on staff," he said.

"It is very frustrating that we don't have ministers in place who can act on this.

"I think this is another consequence of Stormont not doing its job."

Ch Supt Jonathan Roberts said that officers are "proactively progressing enquiries" into ATM thefts and urged anyone who notices suspicious activity around the machines to contact police.

"I encourage those either using or storing heavy lifting machinery like telescopic handlers and diggers on sites or facilities near commercial premises, to ensure that these machines are kept locked, secured and immobilised to prevent theft," he said.

"Not only does this type of crime have a considerable impact on communities, but there is also a significant price to be paid by the business targeted."

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