Small businesses are being smashed by opportunistic criminals who have targeted more than 30 premises in suburban shopping centres across Canberra during the past two weeks.
ACT Policing’s Detective Acting Inspector of Targeting Mark Steel said a crime disruption team of police officers from all stations in the ACT has been set up to specifically target a group of offenders committing ram-raid style aggravated burglaries.
The commercial premises have included cafes, hairdressing salons, barbershops, clothing stores, pharmacies and other small retailers, with thieves causing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage, but escaping with very little.
Two of the premises named by police include the Cheesecake Shop in Phillip and Seears Workwear in Fyshwick.
Det A/Insp Steel said the spate of break-ins is extremely concerning and most likely drug-related by thieves stealing petty cash and items that can be sold quickly.
“We’ve recovered one vehicle overnight that has been involved in a number of ram-raid offences,” Det A/Insp Steel said today (25 September).
“We’re treating this very seriously and our Criminal Investigations Crime Disruption Team has been working hard on this because it has been an ACT-wide problem.
“We have officers from Tuggeranong, City, Woden and Gungahlin, along with road police, working hard to get a swift result.”
He said there had been 162 aggravated burglaries of commercial premises across Canberra last year. This year, there has been 99, with 30 of those occurring during the past two weeks.
No arrests have been made as yet and Det A/Insp Steel said it has been particularly frustrating for the businesses being targeted.
“The biggest annoyance is the amount of damage being done to business premises on multiple occasions. Thieves are breaking in and leaving with very little, but the damage far outweighs the loss of anything that has been taken,” he said.
Most of the aggravated burglaries are occurring between the hours of 11:00 pm and 7:00 am and all suburban shopping centres are being put on notice to increase their security and not leave valuable items inside their premises.
Police are also appealing for any CCTV footage of suspected break-ins.
“We’re appealing to members of the public who may be working late at night that if they see anyone lurking about in vehicles in shopping centres when they shouldn’t to contact police on 131 444, or make an anonymous report to CrimeStoppers on 1800 333 000,” Det A/Insp Steel said.
“I’d also encourage business owners not to leave valuable items in plain sight and consider using signs that say ‘no cash left on the premises’ as these thieves are coming in and getting away with things of little value. We really urge business to target-harden their premises.”
Det A/Insp Steel said more than 70 per cent of burglaries happen at night, so an effective CCTV and alarm system will help deter and catch offenders.
Small shops can consider teaming up with neighbouring businesses to develop security measures which benefit the group.
More tips on how to secure your home and business can be found on ACT Policing’s Outsmart the Offender website.
Anyone with information should contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000, or via the Crime Stoppers ACT website. Please quote reference 6633102. Information can be provided anonymously.