Belfast Telegraph

Police say vigilance has prevented more raids

Brett Campbell

By Brett Campbell

Police have claimed that more ATM heists have been prevented in recent weeks because of an increased security presence and public vigilance.

Fifteen cash machines have been raided in a series of incidents across Northern Ireland this year.

The latest incident occurred at Nutts Corner in Co Antrim in the early hours of Tuesday. Yesterday a man appeared in court in connection with the raid.

A second man (26) arrested following the incident was last night charged with two offences. However, neither of the counts is linked to the ATM theft.

He has been charged with possession of criminal property and driving while disqualified and is due to appear in court in Ballymena today.

Police confirmed that two more men, one aged in his 20s and one in his 30s, have been arrested on suspicion of a number of offences including theft, criminal damage and arson.

It came as officers released more details on how the public was playing a key role in helping police tackle the ATM raids.

"The recent arrests demonstrate how the community and police can successfully work together to tackle crime," a PSNI spokesman said.

"Following reports from members of the public of a crime in progress, officers were able to respond immediately to foil the theft of an ATM.

"This does not mean we will be complacent as we recognise there are a number of gangs carrying out these attacks on ATMs and the threat of more thefts is very real."

He said police will be patrolling areas which could be vulnerable to an attack and "detectives remain dedicated to investigating the thefts that have taken place".

"I would also urge the public to let us know if they see anything suspicious, including seeing any unusual activity, people or vehicles loitering in areas close to ATMs, particularly as some shops may be closed.

"If you hear machinery late at night or in the early hours please call us on the non-emergency number 101 or 999 if you think a crime is in progress. The key to stopping these crimes and getting ahead of these criminals is information from the public."

It comes after Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd claimed thieves who evaded a patrol vehicle after last Friday's raid at a Tesco store in Ballymena had a "bit of luck on their side".

An eyewitness who observed the raid on Larne Link Road expressed disbelief that police failed to catch the culprits despite driving just 300 yards behind the gang's getaway vehicle.

"I remember thinking 'Brilliant, they definitely have them' when I saw police pursuing so closely," the local resident said. "My husband actually turned to me and said: 'Well, they're useless if they don't get them now'."

The abandoned vehicle and two cash machines were later recovered on Woodside Road, but the thieves had long gone.

Mr Todd has refuted claims from one of his own officers that the PSNI response to the crime wave is being hampered by patrol officers' reluctance to break the speed limit following the introduction of new tracking technology.

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