Garda dragnet for gangs who blast ATMs with gas
Gardai have launched a massive operation with the PSNI to target gangs who have been using gas to blow up ATM machines and rob cash.
Up to 10 incidents of this type of crime have been recorded this year.
Two took place in the capital at Knocklyon and Balinteer and there were other incidents at Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, and Drogheda, Co Louth.
Senior sources say that this particular type of crime is "causing huge concern" at senior garda management level with major worries that someone will be killed from a devastating explosion caused by the gangsters.
It emerged at a court hearing in England this year that the safe distance for anyone passing by from one of these explosions is around 100 metres and that anyone caught near a blast could be killed.
The crime was a major topic at a high-level meeting which took place in Dublin among senior detectives from across the country in which a garda plan of action was formulated.
The only successful raid happened last February when almost €100,000 was taken by criminals who fired shots at unarmed gardai as they fled from officers at the scene of the Ulster Bank at Rafter Street, Enniscorthy, around 3.30am on February 6.
The power of the explosion dislodged the ATM from the wall of the bank and as this happened the criminals were simultaneously able to break through the front doors of the bank in an attempt to get cash which had ruptured from the back of the machine.
All four men made their getaway in a dark-coloured car thought to be an Audi A4 Avant, which had no registration plates.
Other unsuccessful attempts took place at Knocklyon Shopping Centre in South Dublin in May when the raiders fled empty handed and also at the Donore Road in Drogheda, Co Louth, in September.
The Drogheda incident unfolded when the bank machine blew up as the four man gang pumped gas into it.
The gas which was sprayed into the machine in a canister caused it to "implode" and the raiders fled without any cash.
It is understood that two gangs have been identified as operating in Ireland and that they have gained "levels of expertise" from Eastern European criminals.
Gardai are investigating whether one of these mobs is linked to a dangerous gang who previously used JCBs to pull ATMs from the walls of banks and business.
Four members of this gang are currently on the run from the law here and it is suspected that they have built up major criminal contacts in the UK.
Sources say gardai are now at the level of building up intelligence on the gangs and have established that what they are dealing with are "organised criminals who carry out these jobs in a very structured role as each person has a specific task when they target the bank machines."
Another common feature that gardai have noticed is the prevalent use of high-powered cars by the criminals involved.
Sources say this type of crime has been "imported" from continental Europe and the UK which has also seen a spike of incidents where gas is being used to blow up bank machines.
Last September, a five-man gang, who used explosives to blow up cash machines and steal nearly £800,000(Stg), were jailed for a total of 82 years at Liverpool Crown Court in England.