CCTV systems, staff quitting and psychological damage: Victims reveal true cost of shop robberies in Norfolk

Freethorpe post office and stores which sustained damage to its front door in a recent robbery. 

Picture: James Bass Freethorpe post office and stores which sustained damage to its front door in a recent robbery. Picture: James Bass

Monday, April 28, 2014
6:00 AM

Shop robberies come at a high cost for the county’s small independent retailers.

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Darren Lucas owns Marshland News in Terrington St Clement, which was robbed at knifepoint in November last year.

A female staff member had a knife held to her throat during the incident, when between £600 and £700 was taken from the till.

Mr Lucas has since invested in another four CCTV cameras and a new shop counter, which cost £2,500.

He has also reduced the shop’s opening hours, so staff do not feel vulnerable when working late at night.

“The biggest thing that has happened is that the lady who was at work at the time has now left us,” he said.

“It’s a struggle to find people to do the job. The other members of staff are always looking over their shoulders and we have had to shut the shop earlier because we feel it’s safer.”

Mr Lucas said it had been a difficult six months, especially for the former staff member who was held at knifepoint.

“We have been trying to help her,” he said.

“She is a lady who was very frail anyway. It has had a financial effect on her as well because she is not working. She was a good worker and a very nice person.”

Shop staff now work in pairs in the evening and small adverts have been taken out of the window to make the inside more visible to passers-by.

‘What they got away with was about £700,” said Mr Lucas.

“It’s cost me more than four times that putting in things to make it more secure. Do they really think it was worth it?”

But he would not let the robbery ruin his business.

“In the cash business, there is always going to be money in the tills,” said Mr Lucas.

“It’s not the best business, but it’s probably not the worst either.”

Victims of the crime have spoken not only of stolen takings, but also of repairs to their premises, lost hours and the price of heightening security.

And then there is the emotional cost for those involved, with one worker who had a knife held to her throat during a robbery deciding she could no longer carry on in her job.

Darren Lucas, owns Marshland News in Terrington St Clement, which was targeted in November last year.

He said: “What they got away with was about £700. It’s cost me more than four times that putting in things to make it more secure. Do they really think it was worth it?”

Darren Lucas owns Marshland News, in Marshland Street, Terrington St Clement. Picture: Ian BurtDarren Lucas owns Marshland News, in Marshland Street, Terrington St Clement. Picture: Ian Burt

Jo Simpson’s shop and Post Office in Freethorpe was robbed twice in the space of five months.

She said: “I said after the second time that if it happened again I would close the village shop. You get a salary for one person, but it’s not a big income. It’s not a massive profit-making business.”

Norfolk Police figures reveal between 11 and 15 robberies at businesses premises including shops each year since 2009.

And with 12 out of 13 in the last year resulting in suspects appearing in court, the message from the force is clear - if you are thinking about committing robbery, there is a 92pc chance you will be caught.

Jo Simpson is the owner of Freethorpe shop and Post Office, which was robbed twice in a five-month period. In October 2013 and March this year, the shop was targeted and Mrs Simpson said a third incident would force her to close the business.

“At the time, I was angry and bitter about it,” she said.

“It was frustration, because what they gained from it wasn’t even worth the hassle.”

In the second incident, the shop door was broken and two days earnings were lost. The robberies have also caused the shop’s insurance premium to rise.

But Mrs Simpson said: “I said after the second time that if it happened again I would close the village shop. You get a salary for one person, but it’s not a big income. It’s not a massive profit-making business.”

She said that after the second raid, she did not want those responsible to win. “I thought if I closed then, all I was doing was letting them beat me,” said Mrs Simpson.

“I think it helped that I wasn’t there the second time. It didn’t hit home quite as much.”

But if shops and post offices in rural locations are forced to close because of crime, it will not just be the owners and staff who are affected.

“At the end of the day, yes, we are there to make a living, but we are also there to serve the village,” said Mrs Simpson. “In Freethorpe, we are down to just a florist and the shop.”

Superintendent Dave Marshall, Norwich Policing Commander, said: “Although the overall number of robberies committed within shops in Norwich is low with one offence on average every four weeks, we understand the distressing impact these kinds of incidents can have on victims and witnesses. This is why reports of robbery and other violent offences are treated extremely seriously with concerted efforts made to trace those responsible and bring them to justice.”

He added that shops could take measures to improve security such as having good quality CCTV and well-rehearsed security procedures to ensure police are called to the scene as quickly as possible.

Deputy chief executive of the British Independent Retailers Association, Michael Weedon, praised those working in the industry and stressed how important these shops are.

“You have got to be fairly hardy to be an independent retailer,” he said.

“You risk a lot. They put their whole livlihoods on the line. But two out of every three shops in the country are independents. They are all there and they are absolutely vital to everyone’s towns and cities. Between them they employ more than one million people. They are very important economically to the country, but they are kind of invisible.”

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