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Burglary ‘epidemic’ hits more than 20 businesses in West Hampstead and Fortune Green

Police tell neighbours: Help us catch these criminals by phoning 999

11 July, 2018 — By William McLennan

Hemen Osman’s dry cleaners in Fortune Green has been hit twice

A burglary “epidemic” has struck Fortune Green and West Hampstead with more than 20 businesses targeted in recent weeks.

Heartless criminals have raided small traders and charity shops – even stealing a collection tin from one business – after smashing through windows and doors.

The spree is believed to be linked to one group of offenders, based on the method and timings of the break-ins, police said.

Residents have been told they can help by calling police if they hear a crime in progress, while officers are visiting business with tips on how to beat the burglars.

The list of victims includes estate agents, pharmacists, restaurants and pubs. Five properties were targeted in the early hours of Monday alone.

Ian Cohen, whose dry cleaners in West End Lane was hit at the end of June, said: “It’s an epidemic and people are quite scared. Someone has obviously found an area that is not well protected and they are just having a spree.

“It’s just going off all round. Everyone is getting broken into. If you go down West End Lane practically every third shop has been broken into, or attempted.”

Hemen Osman, who runs Hampstead Dry Cleaner in Fortune Green Road, has been burgled twice, with thieves making off with £3,000 in cash. Police advised him to fit shutters to prevent another break-in, at a cost of £4,000.

Hampstead Dry Cleaners was smashed open 

“I’ve got three kids and I work seven days a week,” he said. “This is my livelihood. The whole year will be affected by this, but what can I do? I have to keep going.”

There is no council-run CCTV in the area.

Officers in response cars have been told by police bosses to patrol the area, in the rare moments they are not responding to 999 calls elsewhere.

Local units are under increased pressure after being called to support the policing of Donald Trump’s visit and World Cup football matches, which is understood to have complicated attempts to pile resources into West Hampstead.

Cllr Lorna Russell said: “The number looks to be over 20 and every morning there appears to be one or two more. It appears to be the crime of the season at the moment and it certainly is a worrying one.”

She said it was “frustrating” that police resources were stretched, but added: “It’s not their fault, but people need a bit more reassurance that crime is on their agenda. But we know they have got such huge problems to deal with, knife crime and other violent crime, it must be difficult for them.”

Sergeant Mark Townsend, who leads neighbourhood policing in the area, said neighbours could play their part in the response. “We urge you to call 999 if you see or hear anything suspicious especially at night,” he said.

“Many people have their windows open due to the balmy weather so please help us catch these people. Police patrols have been increased to try and catch the culprits directly, with my local SNT’s working with CID to resolve this issue with direct action.”

He said businesses should review their security. “HD quality CCTV with night capability and reinforced doors and windows should be a minimum,” he said.

“Shutters are always the best form of defence but I appreciate the cost implications and visual appearance put many businesses off.”

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