SHOPWORKERS were today warned to be on their guard following a reign of terror by violent armed raiders.
Dozens of shop workers have been held at knifepoint, threatened with hammers and crowbars – and one was even tied up in the spate of shocking raids.
Detectives say they are now investigating whether there are any links between the raids – nine in the last three months.
Steve Pye, chairman of the Fylde coast Federation of Small Businesses, said he was concerned by the threat to shopworkers.
He said: “There has been a lot of robberies going on. Why is there a big upsurge in it? Is it an organised gang thing?
“There can be a big impact on businesses. There is the trauma of it for staff members. They are probably not going to want to stay at work which means there is an added burden on other members of staff.”
In the latest raid staff and customers were threatened by men armed with an axe and a screwdriver at the Co-op store on Chain Lane, Staining, at 9.40pm on Thursday.
Two staff members were held up by thugs armed with a hammer at the One Stop on Rossendale Avenue, Thornton, on February 6. The thugs threatened staff before stuffing cigarettes into a duvet cover.
Terrified staff were held up by masked raiders after they burst into B&M Bargains on Highﬁeld Road in South Shore armed with a crow bar on January 24.
Just days earlier, on January 18, a knife-wielding raider walked into William Hill on Waterloo Road, South Shore, and demanding he hand over cash.
The Co-op store, Fleetwood Road, Thornton; The One Stop, East Pines Drive, Anchorsholme; The Wine Stop, Westcliffe Drive, Layton; Aireys Wine Stores, Bristol Avenue, Bispham; Simply Food and Drink, Hornby Road, Blackpool, and McColls in Warton have all been attacked in the last few months with knives and hammers used to threaten staff.
Victims of robberies across the Fylde coast have been left emotionally scarred by the terrifying threats.
One 35-year-old shopworker told The Gazette: “It was hard going back into work, but I will not let the robber win.
“Both me and my colleague were horribly shaken by what happened, you never think it will happen to you.”
And Kirsty Allan, shop assistant at Simply Food and Drink on Hornby Road, Blackpool, said: “It’s terrible what happened. It’s a sign of the times.
“The police have been very good. I think it’s because of the situation at the moment, there are no jobs and people have no money. I’ve had abuse hurled at me today. We shouldn’t have to put up with it. ”
Another shop worker, who did not wish to be named, said: “The people who are doing this are using the same methods and weapons. It’s shocking.”
Doug Russell, health and safety officer for shopworkers union Usdaw, said: “Shops are seen as an easy target.
“They are more difficult to defend – there may be only one or two members of staff and they stock items which are easy to take such as alcohol and cigarettes.
“It’s a scary experience and potentially there can be serious injuries if a shopworker is attacked.
“There is a lot of advice from the Home Office about security, improving the layout of your shop, making sure you don’t let cash build up in tills and talking to staff about any issues they have.”
Anyone with information about the robberies is urged to call Lancashire Police on 0845 1253545 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.
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