Are sledgehammer wielding thieves targeting rural Suffolk as a ‘soft touch’?

The Spar in Stradbroke was broken into with sledgehammers. Picture: GREGG BROWN

The Spar in Stradbroke was broken into with sledgehammers. Picture: GREGG BROWN

A disturbing spree of rural shop raids has prompted fears Suffolk’s stretched police force presents a “soft” target for crime.

A police forensic van was at the shop on Tuesday morning. Picture: GREGG BROWN

A police forensic van was at the shop on Tuesday morning. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Thieves have been targeting village shops across Suffolk and north Essex over recent months, breaking-in with force to steal cigarettes, alcohol and, in some cases, ripping out cash machines.

The latest raid saw thieves use sledgehammers and crowbars to smash their way into the Spar in Stradbroke, near Eye, on Monday evening, before stealing a large quantity of cigarettes.

Suffolk police said its officers were on the scene in Church Street just 10 minutes after the break-in was reported at 10.15pm.

However, the increasing regularity of rural break-ins has led some to question whether Suffolk is being targeted.

The shop was closed on Tuesday morning. Picture: GREGG BROWN

The shop was closed on Tuesday morning. Picture: GREGG BROWN


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Mike Cane, who lives above the Spar with his wife Pam, confronted one of the thieves and said he was shocked by how “brazen” they had been.

“The fact it happened just after 10pm on Monday evening shows total disregard for law and order,” he added. “It seems they are looking at Suffolk as though it’s a soft target.”

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Mrs Cane, who called 999 during the burglary, praised police but said they needed better resources.

“It’s not the police’s fault but I do think they are under-resourced and stretched,” she added.

Police on the scene after four people broke into the shop and stole a large quantity of cigarettes.

Police on the scene after four people broke into the shop and stole a large quantity of cigarettes. Picture: GREGG BROWN

The couple, who ran the shop before leasing it to Spar, said the thieves had been “menacing”. “One saw me on the phone and assumed I was giving details to police so started acting in a threatening manner,” Mrs Cane added. “He threw a beer bottle and smashed our windows.”

Villagers spoke of their shock at such a blatant raid happening in an otherwise quiet community.

Brian Harper, who has lived in Stradbroke for 27 years, said the only recent problems in the village had been traffic-related.

“Otherwise, it’s a very friendly community,” he added. “What’s worrying is these people are clearly not from the village and are coming here to do it.”

Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner, Tim Passmore, has urged the public to report anything unusual

Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner, Tim Passmore, has urged the public to report anything unusual. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

Jenny Welch said the news had come as a “real shock”. “It’s such a lovely shop, the owners are very nice and the girls working there are lovely too,” she added.

Michelle Gibb, who was walking her dog, said it was “disgusting” that thieves would target the shop.

Suffolk Constabulary said four people with covered faces broke into the shop and made off in a dark coloured Audi.

Witnesses are asked to contact police on 101 quoting reference 16487/18 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

‘Officers need help in identifying the culprits’

Suffolk police leaders have spoken of the need for public help in catching the culprits.

Tim Passmore, police and crime commissioner, said he was sorry the Stradbroke shop had been affected by this “mindless and aggressive burglary” - and urged people to report anything odd.

“It’s reassuring to see that police attendance to this incident was within ten minutes or so, which for a rural county is a good response,” he added. “But clearly the officers need help in identifying the culprits.”

A Suffolk Constabulary spokesman said resources were deployed based on perceived risks, with hourly assessments made to keep the public safe. “We will always endeavour to respond effectively to calls across our rural county, prioritising crime in progress or danger to people,” he added. “The support of the public is essential. We’re exceptionally grateful for the valuable role the public play in being vigilant and reporting signs of suspicious behaviour.”

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