CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Brazen thieves target Belsize Village businesses with Christmas raids

A £20,000 painting was stolen from the Sylvester Fine Art gallery

05 January, 2017 — By William McLennan

Suspects in motorcycle helmets broke into the Late Late Store

A SPATE of smash-and-grab raids hit independent traders in Belsize Park over the Christmas period, with several businesses losing thousands of pounds to brazen thieves.

Belsize Village saw at least six break-ins in late December, leading to calls for police to ramp up their investigations and members of the public to remain vigilant.

Mohammed Shafiq, whose shop the Late Late Store in Belsize Lane has twice been targeted, said: “It’s the same gang, it’s not a one-off. They are trained and they know

what they are doing. They have lights on their helmet and crowbars. I think it was four of them with their motorbike and helmets on. They had a portable grinder, they ruined the shutter and smashed glass.”

In the latest raid, which took place in the early hours of Boxing Day, the shop’s till, containing around £4,500 in cash, was stolen along with cigarettes worth around £4,000.

CCTV footage shows three suspects in motorcycle helmets climbing over the counter and ripping out the till before scooping hundreds of packets of cigarettes into laundry bags.

Mr Shafiq said: “I put more locks on, I put in very tough glass and I’m thinking to put another shutter inside, but at the end of the day the police need to get those people. They have to get this gang, otherwise we’re going to be a target again.”

Andrea Sylvester, whose gallery Sylvester Fine Art had a painting worth £20,000 stolen during a break in at around 3.15am on December 21, said: “One can only presume that it is the same gang.”

She said police had been “both prompt and extremely thorough”, but added that “this spate of incidents does rather suggest that there should be CCTV around the village to provide additional and necessary security”.

She said thieves stole a “small but significant painting” by British artist Ceri Richards, entitled Arsenale in Venice, which was painted by the artist for his granddaughter around 1962, the year that the artist represented Great Britain at the Venice Biennale.

Conservative ward councillor Claire-Louise Leyland said: “We were all very concerned to hear of the break-ins over the festive period and immediately contacted the Belsize SNT (Safer Neighbourhood Team) and Camden community safety team. They’ve assured us that they are investigating what steps can be taken to support residents and local businesses, including the possibility of introducing CCTV in some areas.”

Police have appealed for anyone with information to phone 0208 733 6581 or contact Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

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