Burglars target St Albans city centre businesses
- Credit: Archant
Businesses are being warned to stay alert after multiple shops in St Albans city centre were targeted by burglars.
Staff at independent comic shop Chaos City Comics came to work on May 2 to discover that criminals had thrown a paving slab through the shop window.
The burglars had stolen many figurines and a children's hospital charity collection box from the Heritage Close shop.
Manager Luke Ridge said afterwards: "We are not going to let a few individuals stop us doing what we do best."
Owner Marina Desclavis described the break-in as "very upsetting".
Later that same day a similar incident was narrowly avoided, this time at a city centre jewellers.
Herts police rushed to Kings Hill Jewellery on Market Place at about 10.30pm because the burglar alarm was going off.
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An offender had tried to break into the store, but they did not manage to get into the premises and nothing was stolen.
Early last month, on April 8, criminals broke into a fast-food restaurant on Victoria Street, H&H Fried Chicken and Kebabs.
They got into the premises via a back window and unsuccessfully tried to break into the tills.
St Albans Neighbourhood Sgt Paul Caro said: "We are currently following up a number of leads, including examining CCTV and looking to identify several potential witnesses and vehicles in the area when these incidents occurred.
"These are busy areas in the city centre, so we are hopeful that someone will be able to provide information which help us catch those responsible.
"These crimes are unusual in the city centre and we are working with the retailers to ensure that crime prevention measures are in place."
According to the newest figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), 6,574 burglaries were reported to Herts police in the year ending in December 2018.
Of that total, 4,783 (72 per cent) were residential and 1,791 (27 per cent) were nonresidential.
This is a six per cent decrease compared to the year ending December 2017.
There was also 9,216 incidents of criminal damage and arson reported to the force in Hertfordshire - this represents a nine per cent decrease compared to the year ending December 2017.
Crime Reduction Insp at Herts police, Andrew Palfreyman, said there has been lots of work to address burglary in the county: "We have carried out numerous campaigns to help inform and advise residents how to make their homes more secure and have also increased the number of homes that are in neighbourhood watch schemes.
"We have also focussed on identifying criminals involved in crimes like burglary, by setting up dedicated teams in each area to target burglars and make the county a difficult place for them to operate.
"We have taken a similar approach to criminal damage in some areas, where we have invested a lot of time and effort to identify and take action against key offenders."
St Albans Business Improvement District (BID) said it is working closely with its partners in light of the St Albans incidents.
BID manager Helen Burridge said: "Our excellent transport connections and quality shops unfortunately make us a target for the actions of unsavoury individuals but thankfully these are isolated and considerably less frequent than the national average."
The ONS data shows more than 400,000 cases were reported nationwide - this means Hertfordshire represents 1.5 per cent of burglaries around the country.
Helen added: "We are supporting Chaos City Comics in their clean-up operation and working with Heritage Close on making their space safe for their tenants.
"We are also building our relationship with the police through the recently appointed Safer Neighbourhood Insp Andy Wiseman."
She said any businesses which would like to be included in a quarterly retailers' group to ensure criminals in St Albans are found and prosecuted should contact BID.
This comes after a spate of residential burglaries around the district in December last year - jewellery, technology, cash, and Asian gold were among the items stolen.
Anyone with information about these crimes should contact the police on 101, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.