Police are hunting a criminal gang thought to be behind a series of burglaries at shops and filling stations right across Northern Ireland.
PSNI officers are currently looking at more than 15 incidents with a similar modus operandi and believe that the same gang may be responsible.
Detective Chief inspector Will Tate said: “In the reported incidents the criminals appear to follow a very similar process by targeting rural premises, breaking in and disabling security systems before using machinery to cut or break open internal ATMs.
“The incidents are not limited to a particular geographic area and we are investigating possible links between incidents as far apart as Enniskillen and Larne.
“Our enquiries to date would suggest that an organised criminal gang is responsible for many of the burglaries and we are working hard to identify the perpetrators.
“We are also keen to help prevent further incidents at other rural businesses and we would encourage retailers to take some steps to minimise risk.
“Firstly we would encourage shop owners to try to limit the amount of cash stored on the premises or in the ATMs. Leave the tills empty and open. If the instore ATM has a self-fill option, please consider a managed machine or the use of a cash security company instead. Think about using signs that clearly state that there is minimal cash on premises/limited cash in tills/ATMS out of hours etc, and ensure that that is the case. It is also advisable to only fill the ATMs just prior to opening and never to do so in front of customers or anyone else.
“Conduct a full security review of your business and take steps to address any gaps or shortfalls. If you would like some advice from a PSNI Crime Prevention Officer, this can be arranged by calling 101.”
Detective Chief Inspector Tate added that police would encourage people who live close to rurally located businesses like filling stations and local shops, and who notice any unusual activity or people, to please bring that to the attention of police.
“If you hear machinery at odd hours of the night or early morning or notice people or vehicles appearing to pay attention to the premises, please let us know by calling police on 101. In an emergency or if you suspect a crime is in progress, via 999.”