Armed gang "most serious" crime problem

A TOP detective has warned that a gang of violent armed robbers believed to be responsible for nearly 90 terrifying raids is the presenting the region's police forces with their “most serious” crime problem.

A TOP detective has warned that a gang of violent armed robbers believed to be responsible for nearly 90 terrifying raids is the presenting the region's police forces with their “most serious” crime problem.

Detective Chief Inspector George Barr, who is leading the multi-force inquiry team, says the gang has now become the number one crime concern for police forces across Suffolk, Essex, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire.

He also revealed that one professional crime organisation could be using several different teams of masked robbers to carry out scores of terrifying raids on rural shops and post offices.

Since August 2004, there have been a total of 86 violent robberies and ram-raids on small village shops and post offices across East Anglia.


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DCI Barr, of Cambridgeshire police, said: “Our analyses of the crimes has shown there are teams of offenders working across the region.

“There is not just one group of offenders, but we can't overlook the possibility of a link between the teams involved in the raids and that there is a connection between them all.

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“This is probably the most serious crime problem across the region at the moment.”

The latest raid came on Saturday, when two men wearing balaclavas and armed with machetes burst into the Co-op store at Haughley, near Bury St Edmunds and forced staff and customers to lie on the floor.

In January a special unit of 27 police officers from all four counties was set up in Bury St Edmunds in a bid to track down the masked gang.

Despite the dedicated work of the multi-force inquiry team, which is working under the umbrella of Operation Arctic, the number of violent armed robberies and ram-raids within the region continues to rise.

Since the launch of the inquiry team there has been another four violent raids in Suffolk, nine in Cambridgeshire, three in Essex and three in Norfolk.

DCI Barr added: “Since the team was launched we have made significant headway in our inquiries. Through joint investigations we have been able to establish that a pattern has emerged relating to these crimes and the offenders.

“Although we have made significant progress over the past five weeks we still need public assistance. We need people to be our ears and eyes and let us know immediately they see anything suspicious.”

Many of the recent raids have striking resemblances, which has convinced detectives the same professional criminal organisation is responsible.

The men always wear balaclavas and are threatening and aggressive towards their victims - at least one has had a gun pointed at her face.

The robbers have used an arsenal of weapons during the raids, including shotguns, knives, baseball bats, axes, wrenches and even tree branches.

Stolen cars are nearly always used during the raids, many of which have later been found burned out.

The East Anglian Daily Times has joined forced with the Co-op and local shopkeeper Henry Byham to offer a £2,500 reward for information leading to the conviction of those responsible.

Anyone with information should call Suffolk Police on 01473 613500 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.

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