TRADERS in Batley and Dewsbury say they will not be defeated by a spate of town centre burglaries and vandalism.
Shop owners were left counting the cost following five separate break-ins or attempted break-ins over the weekend in Dewsbury, while a large number of small businesses in the heart of Batley have been robbed or vandalised in recent weeks.
Police have promised to step up patrols in both towns, and Dewsbury MP Paula Sherriff has also got involved in a bid to improve security.
Lavender Hill Florists, on Crackenedge Lane opposite Dewsbury Market, was targeted some time between Friday night and Saturday morning – as was the neighbouring chiropodists Instep Clinic.
There was also a break-in at the Old Turk pub – just yards from from Dewsbury Police Station – in which bottles of spirits were taken.
Sarah Glover, who has owned the flower shop for 25 years, said it’ll cost over £1,000 to replace the front window and the till – all for just a couple of pounds in loose change.
She said: “It’s not good because things are hard enough as they are, the town’s really struggling. It’s just another setback.
“I’ve been here 25 years this year, I don’t want to give in. I don’t want mindless vandalism and people like that to push us away.
“We need to do something about it, but I don’t know what ñ apart from a greater police presence and more security in the town.”
Police arrested a 55-year-old man in connection with the incidents in Dewsbury, and a 26-year-old man was also arrested in relation to the break-ins in Batley.
Chief inspector Ben Ryder, of Kirklees Police, said: “District officers are investigating this break-in and have been conducting a number of proactive and forensic enquiries in the area.
“As our enquiries continue I want to assure businesses we are conducting an extensive investigation into this series of offences which we believe are linked.”
Miss Sherriff said: “I’m concerned to hear that there have been a number of break-ins at Dewsbury town centre shops over the weekend. I understand that the police have made an arrest and their enquiries are ongoing.
“I’ll be following developments on this and have contacted the council with regard to the effectiveness of CCTV currently operating in the town centre. Whilst this can only be one aspect of tackling crime against our local businesses, alongside other police measures I’m asking whether anything can be done to improve current CCTV capabilities.”
Italian restaurant Dolce Vita in Thornhill and the Nelson Inn pub in Thornhill Lees were also broken into on the same evening.
Newsagent Central News in the Market Place was targeted last month by raiders who stole thousands of pounds’ worth of cigarettes, phone cards and cash. And neighbouring shop assistants rallied round to raise over 500 to help shopkeeper Sabir Patel replace some of his stock.
Among those burgled or vandalised in recent weeks in Batley are Howies Fish and Chip shop on Branch Road, the neighbouring Gareth’s Gentlemen’s Hairdressing, The Tanning Studio on Commercial Street, and clothing store Shamaz on Upper Commercial Street. Batley Parish Church also had its 100-year-old stained glass window smashed last Sunday.
Sheila Foxcroft, who owns Howies, said she wasn’t surprised to find her window smashed and shop ransacked when she came to open up on the morning of Monday May 13.
She’ll have to fork out around 600 to fix the window and replace the CCTV system, while the thief got away with just 2 from the charity box.
Sheila said: “It was inevitable. It’s disheartening, but we kind of expected it. We even have a notice on the door which says no valuables left in the shop.”
Sheila is having bars fitted on the rear window where the thief broke in, in a bid to improve security on the shop her family has run since 1953.
But she admitted: “Police can only do what they can do. I think they’re as annoyed as we are.”
Sophie Tai, whose tanning studio was also targeted just 15 minutes after Sheila’s business was broken into, asked: “Why is no-one patrolling the area?”
Shamim Iqbal’s Asian clothing store was raided over the Easter weekend and she couldn’t open up for three days following the burglary. The suspect stole two charity buckets, which “probably had 100 to 200 in them”.
Speaking about the crime wave in Batley town centre, Superintendent Steve Dodds of Kirklees District Police, said: “West Yorkshire Police are investigating a number of commercial burglaries in Batley. Each of the offences were committed in a similar manner and we have also noted a smaller number which have been committed more recently.
“Our enquiries have been ongoing, including forensic and CCTV enquiries, and we are pursuing a number of active lines of enquiry.
“We understand the concerns in the community around the recent burglaries, and I would like to reassure you our officers are working relentlessly to find those responsible.
“Officers from our proactive team are routinely deployed into areas experiencing number of offences, and we have recently committed more officers to the neighbourhood policing team in Batley.
“Due to the number of incidents, there are additional patrols ongoing in the area to deter and detect crime, as well as to offer reassurance to the community.
“If you do spot anything suspicious in the area, please contact police. We will act upon intelligence and information and follow up all available lines of enquiry.”