The spate of ram raids which has struck across Suffolk and Essex has reached ‘epidemic proportions’, according to a local councillor, after the Lavenham Co-op became the latest shop to be targeted.
The Co-operative store in the High Street was left in chaos, after a Suburu estate vehicle smashed into the shop front at about 1.15am on Thursday, December 21, in what is thought to have been a failed attempt to steal the cash machine inside.
The suspects then left the car at the scene, fleeing on foot, before they escaped in another vehicle.
One of the offenders is described as a white male, 5’10” tall, medium build and having an English accent.
He was wearing a dark top, light grey or white trousers and a black balaclava and was reported to have left the scene in the direction of Water Street in Lavenham.
Lee Hammond, head of security at the East of England Co-op, said: “Our state-of-the-art alarm receiving centre enables us to monitor our stores 24 hours a day.
“Following recent incidents, we’ve introduced further security measures, including removing cash from our ATMs. We have our own security team who were able to respond swiftly, along with the police.
“We are offering a reward of £40,000 for information that leads to the successful conviction of those behind the recent spate of ram-raids across Suffolk and Essex.”
The ram-raid joins a long list of very similar crimes in the region. Co-op stores in Long Melford, Great Cornard, Halstead, Earls Colne and Sible Hedingham have all been targeted this year.
Insp Danny Cooper, the Suffolk Police Inspector for Sudbury, said: “CID have taken on the investigation and it would appear this offence is part of a series currently affecting the region.
“We will follow up all lines of inquiry to try to find out who is responsible and we are also working with the Co-op to try to prevent such offences taking place.
“I appreciate this will cause significant concern for the community and we have briefings in place for officers to pay attention to similar premises.
“We will also be following up on any leads that come in.”
This latest incident has raised questions about whether enough action is being taken, and whether police resources are available to achieve this.
Long Melford councillors John Nunn and Richard Kemp said they had recently met Suffolk police and crime commissioner (PCC) Tim Passmore to discuss policing levels and special constable recruitment, but had not heard anything since.
Cllr Nunn said: “This type of crime has now entered epidemic proportions within a comparatively small radius of East Anglia.
“We are being asked by taxpayers and residents alike ‘what are the police doing to bring this to a close’. The answer we have, as councillors, is that we do not know and are not informed.
“The police have at their fingertips intelligence, historic examples of the modus operandi and they will know who likely offenders are.
“What needs to be effected is an operation that is proactive in relation to future targets of crime.”
South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge said he was concerned by this spate of incidents, and welcomed the new powers for local PCCs to improve police funding through council tax precepts.
But he added that this had to translate into more visible policing and officer availability when incidents occur.