Police chief admits it's time to get serious
Josie Hinton THE borough police chief has sensationally admitted the force only dipped into the smash and grab burglary cases in St John s Wood – and vowed to step up patrols on the streets. Speaking to the Wood&Vale, Commander of Westminster Simon Bra
THE borough police chief has sensationally admitted the force only "dipped into" the smash and grab burglary cases in St John's Wood - and vowed to step up patrols on the streets.
Speaking to the Wood&Vale, Commander of Westminster Simon Bray said traders' concerns following a spate of raids were not being ignored.
His words come the week after the Wood&Vale reported how two shops in St John's Wood were targeted by motorcycle gangs in the last two weeks - both in broad daylight, and both in front of shocked bystanders.
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Commander Bray said: "We're very mindful of the impact of the recession around thefts and burglaries and one of our main priorities is to bring that down, particularly smash and grab robberies," he said.
"We have put a lot of effort into working with other boroughs to tackle this particular form of crime.
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"We have run successful and very costly operations in the past and made significant numbers of arrests - but what we are realising is it is not something you can dip into.
"It's something that needs a consistent response working with all the retail consortiums. We also need to work with the areas that these smash and grab robbers come from, to identify people we are concerned about.
"Our focus now will be disruptive patrols - a visible presence of officers on the street.
"We are also working behind the scenes on operations that I cannot comment on, to get to the heart of who is perpetrating these crimes."
The latest raids have led local shopkeepers to reinstate the private security guard who patrolled the High Street over Christmas.
Maureen Butterworth, who owns children's clothes shop Tiddlywinks, said until traders see a visible police presence they will not feel safe.
"There is no bobby on the beat and until they get officers on the street in full uniform there is no deterrent to keep the gangs away," she said.
"We sometimes have community officers but they have days off and there is no cover - when they're off, they're off.
"It's all very well saying they're working behind the scenes with surveillance, but that's not going to solve the problem.
"We need a deterrent on the street."
The scooter gang has foiled police for more than 18 months, raiding designer shops from Bond Street all the way up to Hampstead and Temple Fortune.
They have targeted designer boutiques selling handbags, sunglasses and shoes.
The thieves are renowned for arriving in the early hours of the morning, disguising themselves and their number plates.
But the more recent attacks have taken place in the middle of the day and traders say they are becoming more violent.