Police in West Belfast say they’re investigating a spate of robberies on commercial premises during which poker and fruit machines were ransacked.
Casement Park Social Club on the Andersonstown Road has been targeted in four separate burglaries and attempted burglaries since last Christmas and on each occasion the thieves specifically targeted the slot machines.
The latest burglary took place in the early hours of last Friday morning when two machines were ransacked and a large amount of coins taken.
Three of the break-ins have taken place in just the past two weeks, prompting police at Woodbourne to appeal to the local community to report any suspicious activity at local premises with gaming/vending machines.
Work is set to get under way next year to turn Casement Park into a 40,000 all-seater stadium after the GAA received £60 million in government funding. But now club bosses are having to consider upping security in the short-term after the recent series of break-ins.
“They pulled the shutter off the toilet window, they came in that way and destroyed the slot machines,” said a club spokesman.
“We had just got that window secured and got extra bars put on to the security grills.
“Then a couple of days later they came back and tampered with the security grill on the lounge window so that it would be easier for them to enter the premises. “Two of them came in the lounge window at the bar and the window of the snooker room. CCTV shows them coming in at both windows at the same time,” said the bar manager.
“They [police] reckon they were only in for three minutes and in that time they did both machines in the bar lounge and two other machines.
“There’s at least a float of £350 in each of them. To do two slot machines in three minutes means they must have known what they are doing.”
Over £2,000 in total has been stolen from the club during the August break-ins, all of the money in pound coins.
“Four weeks before Christmas we were broken into,” added the spokesman.
“Again the machines were done, again taking around £1,000.”
The Casement club has now decided to get rid of its slot machines.
“What can you say to people who do this?” said the spokesman.
“I’ve worked here for 38 years and I think we’ve have two break-ins in that period. To have this amount of break-ins in such a short period of time just doesn’t seem right.”
As well as last Friday’s break-in at the Casement Park Social Club, police at Woodbourne are currently investigating three similar burglaries at other commercial and licensed premises in the area.
“We are working to deal with this issue through targeted patrolling and offering crime prevention advice to business owners,” said a PSNI spokesperson.
“We would appeal to the local community to report any suspicious activity at premises with gaming/vending machines immediately to police at Woodbourne station on 0845 600 8000.
“We would also encourage any business owners who would like further crime prevention advice to contact the crime prevention officer at Antrim Road on 0845 600 8000.”