Police hunt 'hoodie' raiders

DETECTIVES are hunting a gang of “hoodie”-wearing thieves who use laundry baskets to ferret away stolen booty from petrol station forecourts across Essex.

DETECTIVES are hunting a gang of “hoodie”-wearing thieves who use laundry baskets to ferret away stolen booty from petrol station forecourts across Essex.

In the past three months the group of young thieves has struck 11 times, each time making off with cigarettes and cigars valued at about £600.

All of the break-ins have taken place around the Chelmsford area and police are now in negotiations with forecourt owners as to how to step up security measures in order to catch the culprits.

Residents and motorists in the mid Essex area are being urged by police to be on the lookout for any gangs carrying laundry baskets or plastic bins late at night.

The group, all of whom are white and thought to be in their late teens or early 20s and wear hooded tops, have struck late in the day after the petrol stations have been closed up for the night.

On each occasion they have broken into the petrol stations using a pickaxe. The stolen items are then stacked up in either the laundry basket or the plastic bins before being taken away.

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Essex Police yesterday confirmed they have basic descriptions of those responsible and are stepping up their efforts to bring the culprits to justice.

Investigating officer, Pc Andy Subner said: “We are examining the footage from the CCTV systems at all the garages but it appears the thieves have done their homework and are evading being caught on camera.

“We have been discussing security with forecourt owners with a view to arresting these thieves.”

The raids have cost garage owners in mid Essex more than £6,000 in lost stock so far and police say that figure rises considerably when the damage caused by the break-ins is taken into consideration.

Each time the hooded gang has left the garage shops on foot before getting into the getaway car, which is parked at the margins of the forecourt out of view of the cameras.

The activities of the gang were yesterday described as “alarming” by Essex Police.

Anybody with information about any of the petrol station raids or who knows the identity of any of the gang members is asked to contact Chelmsford Police on 01245 491212.

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