CCTV images suggest the same gang could be responsible for the seven incidents

Organised criminals are suspected to be behind a spate of farm shop raids in remote locations in north west England and the Midlands.

Seven shops in Staffordshire, Cheshire and West Yorkshire have been burgled in recent weeks, with CCTV images suggesting the same gang could be responsible.

Among the businesses targeted was Denstone Farm Shop, which is run by Farm Retail Association chairman Rupert Evans and his family.

On two previous occasions, would-be thieves had been thwarted by the shop’s security system, but in the most recent instance they avoided triggering the alarm.

The burglars smashed a window to get into the shop and went straight to the safe, emptying it in minutes, Evans said. “They knew the layout of the business, so it appears very likely they cased the joint before the attack. The most important thing is that no one was hurt because it happened at night. However, it’s hugely unsettling for all of us to realise that criminals have been in the shop, working out how to return and break in.” 

Evans added that, after coming through the pandemic and now facing the cost of living crisis, the burglary had been “a real kick in the teeth”.

He advised farm shop owners and staff to look out for anyone acting suspiciously and to keep money held on site to a minimum. Denstone has now stopped accepting cash to avoid the risk of another expensive break-in.

Evans’ advice has been echoed by insurance & financial services specialist NFU Mutual, which has put together a security checklist in response to the burglaries (see below).

“We’re very concerned organised criminals are exploiting the remote locations of many farm shops to commit burglaries,” said NFU Mutual farming sector lead David Harrison.

“While farm shop break-ins are sadly not a new phenomenon because of their remote locations, we haven’t had a series of highly organised raids like this before.”

NFU Mutual farm shop security checklist

  • Make sure passive infrared (PIR) sensors are not concealed by shelving reducing their operating angle
  • Ensure detectors have not been tampered with
  • Consider installing internal door sensors and ensure movement detectors are duplicated where possible
  • Install window sensors on external fixed panes of glass, not just opening windows and doors
  • Reduce cash on site by banking more frequently. Also consider any on-site vending machines and removing cash cassettes each night
  • Safes should be fixed to the ground
  • Check the amount insured in your safe and make sure your insurers recognise your safe
  • If possible, move transactions to a cashless form to reduce the theft risk
  • Change your alarm code regularly and deactivate older or lost fobs
  • For lightweight structures, consider installing a more robust inner security area
  • Consider CCTV coverage with remote monitoring or links to mobiles to confirm alarm activations
  • Ensure target stock items such as alcohol are kept to a minimum if on display