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Police slammed as scooter gang strike again

PUBLISHED: 15:14 13 October 2008 | UPDATED: 15:30 07 September 2010

Sanchez Manning A ST JOHN'S Wood shopkeeper who has been robbed six times has accused police of being more interested in going to Tesco than chasing criminals. Gary Vanger, who owns Square One clothing on the High Street, is the latest victim of a spate o

Sanchez Manning

A ST JOHN'S Wood shopkeeper who has been robbed six times has accused police of being more interested in going to Tesco than chasing criminals.

Gary Vanger, who owns Square One clothing on the High Street, is the latest victim of a spate of smash-and-grab raids.

He said despite the ongoing crimewave which has hit at least five other stores, local police spend most of their time shopping for snacks at the supermarket.

"I only ever see them going back and forth to Tesco," he said. "They're a complete waste of money.

"I've not seen any evidence that they're any good to us, but Tesco must be a safe place."

Mr Vanger's stores, which sell men's and women's clothing, was hit by a two-man scooter gang in the early hours of Saturday morning.

They attempted to smash the front windows, causing £2,000 worth of damage, but were foiled by a metal grill behind the glass and rode off empty handed.

The daring raid is the second on the High Street in as many weeks, with the designer shop Whistles losing thousands of pounds of womenswear to moped-riding thieves on September 23.

After the burglary, Whistles' manager Amanda Block also hit out at local officers for leaving it to Kentish Town police to investigate.

Other stores that have been repeatedly targeted include fashion boutique Larizia and a GapKids outlet.

But it is not just the police that shopkeepers are blaming for the constant attacks on their properties. Mr Vanger is equally frustrated with Westminster Council for their failure to install CCTV in the busy retail and residential area.

"Westminster has put up cameras for parking but there's no CCTV, so it's easy pickings for the thieves," he said.

"We're paying the highest rates in the country and we don't get much back for it.

"We need private security or CCTV - those are the only things that are going to stop this."

But Cllr Daniel Astaire, Westminster's community protection boss, said: "We can and do take control of parking cameras for community protection issues. However, with more than 300 cameras in our network we have to prioritise our resources for monitoring on major incidents and crimes.

"We are working closely with police officers from the St John's Wood Safer Neighbourhood Team to look into these raids and we will take control from parking if we feel it is necessary."

A police spokeswoman also responded to the criticisms made by the shopkeepers on the high street. She said: "We treat all reports of crime seriously and endeavour to always give the best possible response.

"Our local crime prevention officer has worked extensively across north Westminster giving crime prevention advice to both retailers and residents.

"We will continue to work with Westminster council and the local community to target all crime and urge anyone with anything to report to contact St John's Wood police station on 020-7321 9725 or Crimestop-pers on 0800 555 111."

The scooter gang has foiled police for more than a year, raiding designer shops from Bond Street all the way up to Hampstead and Temple Fortune.

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