By Max McLean, PA and Q Radio News
The mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey has condemned the theft of an ATM unit from a Tesco supermarket.
Shortly after 3am police received a report that a digger had been used to steal an ATM unit from the supermarket in Antrim.
The machine was recovered "just a few miles away" about half an hour later.
Mayor John Smyth told the PA news agency that the incident was "an attack on the whole community".
He continued: "The location of (the) ATMs did not just service Tesco shoppers, but the residents of the whole town.
"A crime against the community."
Mr Smyth confirmed that the Tesco supermarket was open for business.
An investigation is continuing to establish if the incident is linked to other recent ATM raids.
BREAKING: Q Radio news understands there has been an incident at a Tesco store in Antrim overnight involving ATM machines. Images show extensive damage caused by a digger. pic.twitter.com/3YcwOYDDNG— Q Radio News (@qnewsdesk) December 6, 2019
In a statement, Detective Inspector Richard Thornton appealed to owners of heavy plant machinery to secure the vehicles properly to prevent such
incidents in the future, and asked the public to be aware of diggers on the roads in the evening or middle of the night.
"The public is waking up to the news today that criminals have targeted a community where many rely on this vital resource, and I understand the concern of the public and the business community, and the impact this crime will have on the community and the business itself," he added.
"I want to reassure the community we are doing all we can to catch the perpetrators, however, we also need your help and I would appeal to anyone has any information which may help our investigation to please get in touch with our detectives.
"Our investigation is at an early stage and we are working to establish if this incident is linked to others of a similar nature.
“I want to take this opportunity to appeal to owners of heavy plant machinery to ensure they do everything possible to secure and immobilise equipment.
"If the diggers cannot be stolen, these attacks cannot take place.
“I would also appeal to the public to report anything suspicious to us.
"It is unusual to see a digger out on the roads in the evening or the middle of the night, so if you do see a digger on the road at these times and think something isn’t quite right, please contact us on the non-emergency number 101 and we can check this out.
"Also, if you see people or vehicles loitering in areas close to ATMs, particularly as some shops may be closed, or hear machinery late at night or in the early hours call us. If you think a crime is in progress please dial 999.
“In particular, if anyone has any information about this morning’s incident please call 101, and quote reference number 126 of 06/12/19.”
In November, a man was charged over an attempted ATM theft that caused the collapse of a petrol station roof in Ballynahinch, Co Down.