Police commissioners 'rise to the challenge' to find criminals responsible for region's ram raids

PUBLISHED: 15:47 26 October 2018 | UPDATED: 15:47 26 October 2018

Halifax in Saffron Walden.

Halifax in Saffron Walden.

Archant

Crime commissioners across the East of England have said they are committed to finding those responsible for a spate of ram raids across the region this year.

There have been more than 30 ram raids or attempted ram raids across Essex, Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and Norfolk so far this year.

High-profile incidents in Uttlesford have seen Halifax bank, in Saffron Walden, a branch of the Co-op, in Stansted Mountfitchet, and a Nisa, in Newport, all targeted.

Roger Hirst, police, fire and crime commissioner for Essex, said the force is doing all it can to disrupt organised crime groups carrying out ram raids and bring those responsible to justice.

“These incidents are being committed by professional, organised crime groups,” Mr Hirst said. “I know that Essex Police, working alongside policing colleagues from across the region, is doing all that it can to investigate and bring those responsible to justice. Although they are targeted incidents they do have an impact on the communities they happen in.

“Members of the public can be reassured that the teams investigating are doing all they can to disrupt these activities.”

More than 10 of the incidents have been carried out on Co-op stores, including the branch in Stansted Mountfitchet.

The retailer says it has installed external motion detectors across dozens of sites and a centrally monitored CCTV system is being fitted at stores which will allow colleagues to call for assistance at the touch of a button.

A spokesman for Central England Co-op said: “We are aware that incidents such as robberies and ATM thefts are frightening for store colleagues, who are our first priority.

“We already have full CCTV coverage in all our stores, have increased our provision of security guards and reduced incident response times. We also now have put in place further measures to try and ensure that people are kept safe.

“We are using a central monitoring system that will allow colleagues to press a button to alert a special control room who will then be able to watch what is happening on CCTV and call for immediate assistance from the emergency services if required.

“This allows for quicker support for colleagues as incidents are escalated quicker and will also help increase colleague’s perception of safety and security, something of which has happened when the system has been installed elsewhere across our business.”

Essex Police says it is working with businesses to identify vulnerable cash machines and establish ways to secure them to make them more robust and easier to detect if stolen.

“There are other simple ways that businesses can help make them more secure, including installing bollards, CCTV and lighting,” a spokesman for the force said. “Our officers regularly give theft prevention advice to people connected to building sites and rural businesses with large vehicles and machinery used in these types of crimes and often attend Farm Watch meetings in our rural communities.

“However, we also need residents to help make life as difficult as possible for criminals. Investing in alarms, immobilisers and tracking systems on large vehicles and improving access and security on building sites, garages and outbuildings can prevent vehicle theft and further crime.

“We are taking all reports seriously and we are utilising specialist detectives from our serious crime directorate to tackle these organised crime groups.”

Tim Passmore, police and crime commissioner for Suffolk, said the majority of ram raids in his county are deliberately targeted towards remote rural communities.

“The vast majority of Suffolk ram raids are deliberately targeted towards our remote rural communities and the effects can be particularly unsettling for local people and businesses,” Mr Passmore said.

“A revised policing plan, which takes effect at the end of this month, will see extra policing resources are being allocated into the local safer neighbourhood teams.

“This will provide better response locally and greater visibility which should act as a deterrent. The constabulary is also recruiting extra detectives to help bring these criminals to justice.”

Police and crime commissioner for Cambridgeshire, Jason Ablewhite, said Cambridgeshire Constabulary was “rising to the challenge” to combat the increase in ram raid incidents.

Mr Ablewhite said: “I completely understand that this kind of crime can cause concern and disruption to local communities. However, I want to reassure the public that the constabulary are doing everything they can to track down those responsible and I urge anyone with information about these incidents to contact the police as soon as possible.

“I remain committed to combating such crime, and I would like to reassure the public that our officers are working extremely hard across the county to ensure we stay safe and secure.”

The Eastern Region Special Operations Unit, which works to dismantle organised crime groups in the region, said it was working closely with police forces to review the spate of cash machine thefts.

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