Detectives in Northern Ireland are warning that more than 15 attacks on ATMs may be down to the same gang, and are urging retailers to take precautions.

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.”

He said the incidents were not limited to a particular geographic area and detectives were investigating possible links between incidents as far apart as Enniskillen and Larne.

He added: “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.

“First 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 in-store 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.”

He urged retailers to carry out a full security review of their business and to take steps to address any gaps or shortfalls. Advice from a PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) Crime Prevention Officer, can be arranged by calling 101.

He also encouraged people who live close to rurally located businesses such as filling stations and local shops, and who notice any unusual activity or people, to bring that to the attention of police.

He said: “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.”