GREAT MEAT ROBBERY: Criminal gang steals £12,000 of meat from East Lancs butchers (From Blackburn Citizen)
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GREAT MEAT ROBBERY: Criminal gang steals £12,000 of meat from East Lancs butchers
POLICE are hunting a gang of thieves after thousands of pounds worth of meat was stolen in five raids on butchers.
Christmas turkeys are amongst the £12,000 haul taken during night break-ins.
Police said they had seen an increase in thefts over the past few days as shops stock up for the festive period and warned people across East Lancashire about buying the meat, which could pose a danger to health.
Some butchers said they were even being forced to sleep in their shops to make sure they did not become victims.
In the most recent theft, at Rowles butchers, in Inglewhite Road, Longridge, more than £4,000 of meat, including a whole pig, four whole lambs, four hinds of beef and various selections of cuts, was stolen.
It was the second time the business had been targeted in recent weeks, following a £5,000 theft.
Burglars used a spade to smash a window overnight on Tuesday, into the early hours of yesterday, to get access to the joints.
Police said it would have taken around an hour to load the goods into a van or estate car.
Perkins butchers, in Union Road, Oswaldtwistle was also broken into between 1.30pm on December 11 and 6.30am on December 12.
A large amount of meat and some equipment totalling £2,000 was stolen, including two full sides of beef, a meat cleaver and a steak knife.
Kevin Aaron, who has run the shop for eight years, said: “I had been stocking up for Christmas and they have just cleared me out. It is heart-breaking.”
The 42-year-old father-of-four said he believed the burglars had climbed in through a narrow window, which is 4ft above the ground, after knocking the hinges out and removing the glass.
The theft means he is now struggling to meet customers’ orders.
Two other premises, Metcalfe Butchers in Queen Street, Great Harwood, and T Duckworth Butchers in High Street, Rishton, were also targeted, but nothing was stolen.
Traders said they were on high alert for further attacks.
Stephen Berkins, who runs Berkins Butchers, in Rosegrove Lane, Burnley, said: “I have heard of quite a lot of butchers sleeping over at their shops.
“Burglaries are something we are really aware of and concerned about at this time of year.
“Nobody has any turkeys left, so it would really be the worst nightmare.”
Geoff Riley, of Riley’s Butchers in Burnley, Road, Crawshawbooth, said butchers were taking measures to stop the thieves.
He said: “We are trying to take every precaution.
“We have extra blocks on the fridges and there are cameras everywhere. It is worrying.
“There would be nothing worse from our point of view because of the amount of stock we have in the shop at Christmas time.
“Christmas week for butchers is the busiest time of the year.”
Meanwhile, environmental health officers from Pendle, Ribble Valley and Craven Councils have joined forces with officers from Lancashire and North Yorkshire Police and Trading Standards Services to target cross-boundary livestock theft, illegal slaughter and movement of unfit meat.
Teams have carried out a co-ordinated operation across the three district council areas, checking more than 150 delivery vehicles.
Sgt Dave Clarke appealed for anybody who had been offered meat to note down the seller’s registration details and call the police.
He said: “In the last week, we have seen an increase.
“All seem to have similar methods of operation and are probably by the same offenders.
“The offences have been somewhat crude and caused substantial damage in some cases.
“They are obviously selling this meat on somewhere and we need to know where.
“It could be market stalls, pubs or in the street.
“I would imagine they are approaching people in car parks and maybe legitimate businesses as well.
“We would appreciate it if they would let us know.”
He also raised concerns over how the joints are being stored.
Sgt Clarke said: “The meat could fit into an estate car or a small van.
“I would doubt they would be refrigerated given the kind of people we believe are committing these offences and so there is also a risk to people’s health.”
Anybody with any information should call 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.
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