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3 April 2019, 15:01 | Updated: 3 April 2019, 15:12
A violent gang is targetting convenience stores across the Southampton area to steal large amounts of cigarettes.
A One Stop in Sholing was the latest to be robbed last night. Three men made off with cash and a haul of cigarettes in white builder's bags from the store on North East Road at around 10.30pm. They threatened a staff member with a knife.
Convenience stores in Southampton, Romsey, North Baddesley, Eastleigh, and Totton have been robbed and police say and each time, a group of three or four people enter the stores with their faces covered, threaten staff and steal cash and a large amount cigarettes.
The cigarettes are put into large rubble bags.
The crimes generally happen at opening times or early evening and often stolen vehicles are used.
Detective Inspector Colin White said: #
“We believe the cigarettes being taken are the main objective of this group to sell on and make quick money.
"That would not be happening if those receiving it were not complicit in handling these stolen items and selling them on themselves.
"We are concerned that a few local shops are accepting this stolen stock and selling it on for own personal gain whilst putting other convenience store owners at risk of robbery because of it.
“We also want to ask the public if anyone has noticed any convenience stores selling cigarettes at an unusual price or you have noticed they have a large amount of one particular brand and not another. We need to know where the products are going.
“Lastly, I want to say that although these robberies are committed against shops, we know that they have a serious impact on members of our community going about their daily work.
“We want to know who is responsible for these crimes.”
Officers have asked anyone with information about where the cigarettes are going or who might be involved to call 101 and quote Operation Assessment.