This is why there are so many ram raids on shops in Leeds city centre

Last night Hugo Boss on Vicar Lane became the latest designer store to be targeted by ram raiders in Leeds.

Friday, 1st March 2019, 15:32 pm
Updated Friday, 1st March 2019, 15:37 pm
Police outside Flannels after the second of the three ram raids on the shop, June 2018

Since October 2017, there have been nine raids in the city centre on high-end boutiques, most involving gangs who drove a vehicle through the shop windows before stealing items on display.

These are all the Leeds designer stores that have been ram raided in the past two yearsThe smash and grab raids have seen cars abandoned inside the store while the thieves have escaped in another waiting vehicle.

Most of the shops targeted have been in the city's swanky Victoria Quarter, which is home to plush designer stores. Premises on the edge of the arcades, with frontages on the main thoroughfares of Vicar Lane and Briggate, have proved particularly vulnerable as gangs can make a getaway easily.

Flannels - a multi-brand designer clothing store owned by the Sports Direct Group - has been raided three times in just nine months. The first incident was in December 2017 and there were two more in June and August 2018. In the last raid a Nissan Qashqai was left inside the shop. A Transit van and Vauxhall Corsa were used in the first two robberies to ram the glass.

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Louis Vuitton on Briggate was robbed twice in April 2018. In the first raid a Subaru was reversed into the window and abandoned. Three cars were used in the second robbery.

Diesel was robbed in a raid in October 2018, although a car was not involved. Thieves smashed the glass of the store on King Edward Street and made off with stock in the early hours of the morning.

In the most recent raid, balaclava-clad men drove a 4x4, believed to be a pick-up, into the Hugo Boss store on Thursday February 28 and fled with designer clothes. The investigation is ongoing. Security bollards installed privately by the brand failed to prevent the gang accessing the shop.

Away from the Victoria Quarter, luxury Rolex watch dealer Preston's on Commercial Street was hit in February 2018 on a Sunday afternoon. Shoppers watched in horror as two cars were driven at speed to the store before a Fiat Stilo was used to ram it. The raiders couldn't gain access and fled empty-handed.

Hyman's Jewellers on Call Lane was targeted in the middle of the day in October 2017. A pick-up truck was reversed into the window and then abandoned in the road. Two men were convicted of the robbery in February 2019.

How can ram raids on shops be prevented?

Security expert Graham Oxcroft, from Wetherby-based Triton Security, said that it was difficult to install security measures that could prevent 'smash and grab' raids involving vehicles.

"The main ones that would stop ram raids would be bollards and to have a security guard stationed in the shop overnight. Councils don't always allow bollards to be installed on pavements for safety reasons - often they're only allowed in certain areas.

"Smokescreens can also work - they will fill a room with smoke when the detectors are activated. A lot of jewellers have these. But these ram raids are so quick and it would take a few seconds for the smoke to fill the room. Often they're just reaching into the window displays rather than going right inside the shop.

"At Hugo Boss they were able to drive straight off the main road (Vicar Lane). Some stores do have roller-door shutters that come down, but they're not always allowed on certain streets either."

What are the council doing to improve street safety?

Councils install measures such as security bollards and gates - which are remotely operated and can be raised or lowered when necessary - at street entrances to prevent vehicles accessing certain areas, but it can be more difficult to place them on pavements directly in front of shops, where they can impede pedestrians. The bollards in front of Hugo Boss had been funded privately by the store.

A Leeds City Council spokesperson said:

“Leeds City Council continues to invest significantly in crime reduction in the city. We work closely with the police and other organisations, including retailers and property owners to put in place measures to make it harder for criminals to operate and increase the likelihood of catching them.”