Calls to fit trackers in all ATMs to help stop robbery spree
Gardai are pushing for tracking devices to be built into all ATMs following a spate of robberies on both sides of the Border.
Senior Garda officers and bank officials are studying measures to beef up security at the machines, which have become easy pickings for crime gangs.
At present, some ATMs are fitted with the trackers but gardaí say the measure should be extended to help capture the criminals and recover the stolen cash.
Officers investigating the raids on the Bank of Ireland and Allied Irish Banks machines at John Street in Kells, Co Meath, in the early hours of Good Friday have made some progress with their inquiries.
They have recovered a four-wheel drive vehicle and a car used by the gang in their getaway. Both were found burned out in a wooded area near Dunaree, Kingscourt, on the Co Meath-Co Cavan border.
They had been stolen in Ardee, Co Louth, within the past couple of weeks as the gang prepared for their well-planned strike at the two ATMs. The vehicles were recovered with the burned out ATMs after they were spotted by a local walking in the area.
Investigators are now trying to trace the escape route used by the gang as they made their way home through Co Monaghan and back over the Border into south Co Armagh.
Officers say footage from CCTV cameras will be vital in their efforts to identify the raiders. Apart from the footage already being examined around Kells on the morning of the robberies, officers are also collecting material from cameras near the location of the finds at Dunaree and the thefts of the vehicles in Ardee.
Although the suspected raiders are known to be living on the northern side of the Border, gardaí believe they had help from a local accomplice with knowledge of the area.
The two robberies were completed within four minutes and although gardaí were quickly on the scene and went in pursuit, the gang managed to escape in a maze of roads leading initially into Co Cavan.
Gardaí say the gang are comprised of criminals but some of them may have individual links to dissident republican factions.
They think the same gang were responsible for previous ATM robberies in Castleblayney and Ballybay, Co Monaghan, and Kingscourt, Co Cavan, recently. The three previous raids netted between €200,000 and €250,000 for the gang while more than €200,000 is now known to have been taken from the two Kells banks last Friday.
Officers from the affected counties held a case conference in Kells yesterday afternoon to examine progress to date. They are also working closely with PSNI investigation teams and receiving briefings from the Garda's security and intelligence section in the Phoenix Park.
Officers believe the gang may have moved further south to carry out Friday's raids because of the increase in armed gang activity in the Border region.
The south Armagh gang are one of three responsible for the latest ATM robbery spree.
The second are based around the Omagh area of Co Tyrone and may also have some members in Co Fermanagh, while the third involve some former members of LVF/UVF loyalist paramilitary gangs in Co Antrim. Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said last week that although there had undoubtedly been planning involved in the crimes in Kells, that allowed opportunities for gardaí - and "we'd be looking to exploit those".
A stolen ATM was recovered in Omagh on Monday. The PSNI are combing the machine for forensic evidence and are attempting to trace where it was stolen from.