What happens to a tiny bush community when its only ATM is stolen?

A western Queensland mayor is furious after a second ATM was damaged and robbed in his region in the space of a few weeks.

Sep 16, 2020, updated Sep 16, 2020
The site of the stolen ATM. (Photo: ABC)

The site of the stolen ATM. (Photo: ABC)

The only ATM in Alpha, which was bolted to the concrete footpath at the town’s Tourist Information Centre, on Shakespeare Street, was significantly damaged after it was forced open with cutting tools on Monday night.

A “significant sum” of money was taken, according to Queensland Police.

The ATM’s internal mechanisms were discovered on a property access road 12km east of the neighbouring town of Jericho on Tuesday afternoon.

It follows a similar incident in late August, when the only ATM in Jericho was stolen from the verandah of the post office.

It was found about 10 kilometres outside of the town a few days later.

It had also been forced open with cutting tools.

Barcaldine Regional Council Mayor Sean Dillon said the incident was “another kick in the guts” to locals and small businesses.

“It would appear that the low-life, criminal scum have struck again,” Dillon said. “I am just disgusted. [They’ve] got absolutely no respect.”

Police say incidents linked

Detective Sergeant Brett Long, from the Longreach Criminal Investigation Branch, said police had no solid leads yet, but believed the same people were responsible for both “bold” and “brazen” offences.

Police will review CCTV footage provided by local businesses to identify any suspects, and were urging anyone with information to come forward.

“I’ve got to keep an open mind and bear the realisation that these people committing these offences could be from anywhere,” Long said. “The propensity and ability for people to travel and commit crime is something that we see all the time.”

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No cash leaves communities in the lurch

Businesses in Alpha and Jericho, which have populations of 335 and 115 respectively, rely heavily on cash due to intermittent internet connectivity restricting access to EFTPOS facilities.

With the town’s only ATM now rendered inoperable, it is not clear how residents and tourists passing through Alpha will pay for items at local businesses and events.

“We have significant need for cash when our community events are occurring,” Dillon said.

“It’s an unrealistic burden and expectation to place on small business to have to be the banker for those events when people wish to get cash out in advance of attending.”

Dillon said the “reckless and foolish behaviour” of those responsible would leave a lasting effect on the Alpha community.

“For the value of the damage to the community … you’re not talking Fort Knox, so the risk versus reward, I would suggest, is substantially diminished,” he said. “But I’m pretty sure some criminals don’t consider that — they just see a quick fix.

“I just hope that these criminal scum can be brought to justice as fast as possible, because the impact of their actions is substantially greater than it would be within their capacity to comprehend.”

– ABC / Ellie Grounds

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