Masked Romanian burglary gang target FARM SHOPS: Owners warned to be vigilant after a string of robberies targeting high-end rural shops
- Police are said to be “baffled” by the robbery gang’s highly coordinated methods
- Romanian speakers dressed in balaclavas captured by surveillance cameras in numerous farm shops
- They even crawled around a store’s £10,000 alarm system and escaped notice
- NFU Mutual: ‘We’ve never had a series of highly organized raids like this’
Rupert and his wife Emma are pictured outside their shop front in Staffordshire
A gang of Romanian thieves in balaclavas are believed to be behind a series of farm shop break-ins in the Midlands, North West and North Wales.
At least seven chic farm shops have been attacked in the last four weeks, with CCTV suggesting the same group of highly skilled criminals were behind them.
They even managed to bypass a store’s £10,000 alarm system by crawling down the aisles like commandos.
The men escaped with £16,000 worth of banknotes from a certified safe at Denstone Hall, Staffordshire, last month.
Denstone Hall owner Rupert Evans, 50, said it was likely the gang visited the store that day
The gang crawled commando style across the floor of the corridors at Denstone Hall last month
Evans added: “It’s very disturbing for all of us to realize that criminals have been in the business and have worked out how to come back and break in.”
Insurer NFU Mutual warned that burglars had taken advantage of the farm shops’ rural, often remote, locations.
NFU Mutual farm shop safety checklist
- Make sure Passive Infrared (PIR) sensors are not obscured by shelves that reduce their operating angle
- Ensure that the detectors have not been tampered with
- Consider installing internal door sensors and ensure motion detectors are duplicated where possible
- Install window sensors on external fixed panes of glass, not just when opening windows and doors
- Reduce local cash by banking more frequently. Also, consider on-site vending machines and remove cash boxes every night
- Safes should be fixed to the floor
- Check your safe’s sum insured and make sure your insurer will accept your safe
- Move transactions to a cashless form whenever possible to reduce the risk of theft
- Change your alarm code regularly and disable older or lost fobs
- For light structures, consider installing a more robust interior security perimeter
- Consider CCTV coverage with remote monitoring or cell phone connections to confirm alarm activations
- Ensure target items such as alcohol are kept to a minimum when on display
Spokesman David Harrison said: “We are very concerned that organized criminals are taking advantage of the remote locations of many farm shops to commit burglaries.”
“We’ve never had a series of highly organized raids like this before.”
Denstone Hall owner Rupert Evans claims they even stole tips. The Sunday Times reported.
Mr Evans, 50, said: “Seeing them scrambling around to avoid setting off the alarm was the strangest thing I’ve ever seen.
“I tested it myself and tried to do what they were doing just to verify why the alarm wasn’t going off.
“They looked straight out of the Matrix, wearing their ski scarves with a tiny gap for their eyes.”
The same group is suspected of robbing Wolverhampton’s Essington Farm Shop on July 4th.
But on this occasion they triggered the alarm system – and came away empty-handed.
“I was at the property at the time and was only a minute late,” owner Will Simkin told the newspaper.
Police say they are “amazed” by the sophistication of the gang’s methods.
Staffordshire Police added: “Officers are investigating extensively and would encourage anyone with information or CCTV or dash cam footage to contact Staffordshire Police.”
Meanwhile, North Wales Police have urged farmers to be alert for suspicious customer activity during opening hours.
Mr. Evans tells The grocer this week: “They knew the layout of the store, so it seems very likely that they sheathed the joint before the attack.
“The most important thing is that nobody was hurt because it happened at night.
“However, it is very disturbing for all of us to realize that criminals have been in the business to figure out how to get back and break in.”