Shotgun, hammer and axe-wielding robbers have been targeting the Lancashire area in recent months.
They have committed offences at post offices, betting shops, jewellers and a cash in transit van. The MOs of the offences vary and it is probable that they are being committed by a number of different criminals, rather than one specific team. The offenders are brazen and at ease with threatening staff or any unfortunate passing member of the public with violence.
A few weeks ago, I watched a video of a pair of armed robbers attacking a jewellers shop in Manchester city centre. The two thieves arrived on a high-powered motorcycle and quickly smashed the display window and attempted to steal a large quantity of watches. To some extent, they were foiled by passers-by, who moved forward and filmed the offence on their mobile phones.
It made me ask why this type of high-risk offence has once again become popular within the criminal fraternity?
I think there are a number of factors in play. Firstly, criminals have become aware that there are fewer police foot and mobile patrols. Also, due to the cuts, forces have had to cut back on the proactive targeting of offenders who commit this type of serious cross-border offending.
Furthermore, the thieves are aware that some town centre CCTV monitors are no longer permanently staffed and they are less concerned about the abilities of police helicopters, due to reduced cover.
Additionally, it is common knowledge the police will not be permitted to engage in high-speed pursuits during daytime hours in busy areas. This type of offending has become easier, less risky and more immediately profitable, due to cash being the main target.
The offenders appear physically fit and confident that they can ‘deal’ with any immediate potential threat from a member of staff, passer-by or attending police patrol. They also appear to be more forensically aware, in relation to leaving traces of DNA, fibres, footprints or fingerprints. Some are surveillance and CCTV conscious, and extremely careful in their use of mobile telephones and other digital devices.
I believe that an increase in this type of offending is one of the very predictable consequences that emanates from having a much weakened police service. I anticipate that the prevalence of this kind of armed robbery will continue for some time to come.