Masked Romanian burglary gang target FARM SHOPS: Owners warned to be alert after string of robberies at high-end rural stores
- Police are said to be ‘amazed’ by highly coordinated methods of robbery gang
- Balaclava-clad Romanian speakers caught on CCTV at numerous farm shops
- They even crawled around one store’s £10,000 alarm system, evading notice
- NFU Mutual: ‘We haven’t had a series of highly organised raids like this before’
A gang of balaclava-clad Romanian thieves are thought to be behind a series of farm shop burglaries across the Midlands, the north West and north Wales.
At least seven posh farm shops have been targeted in the past four weeks, with CCTV suggesting the same group of highly skilled criminals are behind them.
They even managed to circumvent one store’s £10,000 alarm system by crawling like commandoes around the aisles.
The men got away with £16,000 in bank notes from a certified safe at Denstone Hall, Staffordshire last month.
Rupert and wife Emma are pictured outside their Staffordshire store front
Denstone Hall owner Rupert Evans, 50, said it was likely the gang had visited the store that day
The gang crawled commando-style on the floor of the aisles at Denstone Hall last month
Evans added: ‘It’s hugely unsettling for all of us to realise that criminals have been in the shop, working out how to return and break in’
Insurers NFU Mutual warned that burglars have taken advantage of the farm shops’ rural, often isolated locations.
NFU Mutual’s farm shop security checklist
- Make sure passive infrared (PIR) sensors are not concealed by shelving reducing their operating angle
- Ensure detectors have not been tampered with
- Consider installing internal door sensors and ensure movement detectors are duplicated where possible
- Install window sensors on external fixed panes of glass, not just opening windows and doors
- Reduce cash on site by banking more frequently. Also consider any on-site vending machines and removing cash cassettes each night
- Safes should be fixed to the ground
- Check the amount insured in your safe and make sure your insurers recognise your safe
- If possible, move transactions to a cashless form to reduce the theft risk
- Change your alarm code regularly and deactivate older or lost fobs
- For lightweight structures, consider installing a more robust inner security area
- Consider CCTV coverage with remote monitoring or links to mobiles to confirm alarm activations
- Ensure target stock items such as alcohol are kept to a minimum if on display
Spokesman David Harrison said: ‘We’re very concerned organised criminals are exploiting the remote locations of many farm shops to commit burglaries.’
‘We haven’t had a series of highly organised raids like this before.’
Denstone Hall owner Rupert Evans claims they even stole staff tips, The Sunday Times reported.
Mr Evans, 50, said: ‘Watching them crawl around to avoid triggering the alarm was the strangest thing I’ve ever seen.
‘I tested it myself and tried to do what they did, just to check why the alarm didn’t go off.
‘They were like something out of The Matrix film, wearing their ski snoods with a tiny little gap for their eyes.’
The same group are suspected of robbing Wolverhampton’s Essington Farm shop on July 4.
But on that occasion, they did trigger the alarm system – and made their escape empty-handed.
‘I was on the property at the time and arrived just a minute too 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 making extensive inquiries and would encourage anyone with information or CCTV or dash cam footage to contact Staffordshire police.’
Meanwhile North Wales Police urged farmers to be wary of suspicious customer activity during opening hours.
Mr Evans told The Grocer this week: ‘They knew the layout of the business, so it appears very likely they cased the joint before the attack.
‘The most important thing is that no one was hurt because it happened at night.
‘However, it’s hugely unsettling for all of us to realise that criminals have been in the shop, working out how to return and break in.’