A team of detectives has been set up to tackle ATM thefts in Northern Ireland after another attack on a forecourt over the weekend.

The Organised Crime Branch of the Police Service of Northern Ireland has set up the team and is appealing to the public for information.

Detective inspector Richard Thornton said: “Recently there has been an upsurge in the number of ATM machines ripped from the walls of commercial premises using plant machinery which, more often than not, has been stolen from a nearby farm or building site and then destroyed after each incident. The attacks tend to occur more frequently, but not exclusively, in rural areas, and are a serious cause for concern for us all.

“The idea that ATM thefts are a victimless crime should be completely discounted as these attacks cause untold loss and disruption to individuals, businesses and whole communities, in terms of the loss of very expensive machinery, delays in production, damage to the local economy and the likelihood of criminal finances being redirected back into funding further organised crime or terrorism. Local people who rely upon these banking facilities also suffer as they may have to travel considerable distances to find an alternative banking arrangements and the livelihoods of the business owners who have worked for years to build up their businesses is also jeopardised.

“We have seen seven attacks in the last four months. That is seven communities suffering due to the greed of unscrupulous criminals. We would like to stop them and would ask you to help.”

He also appealed to machinery owners to take precautions to try and prevent thefts.

The latest ATM theft was at Dungannon on Sunday 10 March.

Detective inspector Trevor Stevenson said: “Thieves used a digger to remove the ‘built in’ cash machine from a filling station on the Ballygawley Road at around 4:15am causing substantial damage to the building.

“We believe the digger was stolen from a business a short distance away, which caused damage. The digger was set alight at the scene immediately after the theft.

“I am appealing to anyone who was in the area between 4am and 4:15am and saw what happened, or who has information which could assist our investigation to call us.

“In particular, I am appealing to anyone who saw a jeep-type vehicle towing a trailer in the Gortlenaghan Road/Ballygawley Road areas around these times to get in touch with detectives in Omagh CID by calling 101, quoting reference 340 of 10/03/19.”

Alternatively information can be provided by calling Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.