Digger used to steal ATM from filling station in eighth incident this year
An ATM machine has been stolen from a filling station in Co Londonderry, the eighth similar incident this year.
The latest incident took place outside Dungiven in the early hours of Sunday morning.
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 rip the machine from the wall at the side of the shop leaving substantial damage to the building.
The digger was not set alight and was located at the scene.
Shop owner Martin O'Kane surveyed the damage from behind a police cordon on Sunday afternoon.
"The men who did this are just scumbags," he said.
"There are going to be less and less ATMs about now because of these attacks. There is one basically happening every week now.
"I probably won't get another cash machine in again - and that will be the local community losing out."
The latest theft marks the ninth ATM stolen in Northern Ireland this year across eight separate incidents.
A number of ATMs have also been targeted in the Irish Republic in recent months.
Earlier this year a dedicated PSNI team was set up to investigate and police warned that paramilitaries could be profiting from the thefts.
Retail NI Chief Executive Glyn Roberts said words failed to describe his anger after the latest incident.
"Yet again a local independent retailer, who provides an invaluable service to the local community, is awakened from his sleep to be told his business is smashed up and ATM stolen,” he said.
“The gangsters behind these attacks are systematically targeting independent retailers. Our members in every part of Northern Ireland feel under siege, and are asking themselves if they will be next”
“I will be seeking an urgent meeting with the Chief Constable and the Chair of the Policing Board to discuss this crisis and what further can be done”
DUP Mid Ulster MLA Keith Buchanan called on the PSNI to "step up their focus" on the issue.
"DUP Policing Board members will meet the Chief Constable later this week and the spate of ATM thefts is something we will raise during that meeting," he said.
Detective Inspector Richard Thornton said police were working to combat the spate of recent ATM thefts.
"Unfortunately, the public and the business community are today waking to the news that another ATM machine has been stolen; that another business has been targeted by these brazen thieves," he said.
"As in all of these ATM thefts, the actions of these criminals have not only caused immediate financial harm to the business targeted, but they have understandably caused fear in the community and impacted upon a vital service many local people rely on.
"I want to appeal to anyone who was in the area and who may have witnessed the theft, or who saw the digger being driven to the scene, to contact us.
"I would also appeal to anyone who saw any suspicious activity in the last few days in the area to call us. If you have information which you believe could assist our investigation please, pick up the phone and call detectives on 101, quoting reference number 357 of 07/04/19."
Detective Inspector Thornton appealed on members of the public to report any suspicious activity to police.
“We are doing all we can to catch the people responsible – it is a key priority for us – however, I want to reiterate that the key to stopping these crimes and getting ahead of these criminals is information from the public," he said.
“We need people to report anything suspicious, including seeing any unusual activity or people in areas close to ATMs. For example, if you hear machinery late at night or in the early hours please let us know.
"If you see any cars being driven in a suspicious manner close to where ATMs are located, please let us know.
“No matter how insignificant you think it is, call us and we will investigate. It could be key to catching the criminals responsible.”
Alternatively, information can also be provided to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111, which is 100% anonymous and gives people the power to speak up and stop crime.
Belfast Telegraph Digital