Teens arrested - Seven businesses targeted in crime spree

July 12, 2017

Ray Fitzpatrick and Jason Bignell call for an improved police presence in Cobram.

Two teenagers have been charged following a brazen smash and grab spree across Cobram’s central business district last week.

The arrests follow a series of alleged burglaries committed across seven businesses between 2am and 4.15am last Thursday.

An 18-year-old Shepparton man has been charged with burglary, theft, attempted burglary and going equipped to steal.

A 16-year-old Kialla youth has been charged with burglary, theft, attempted burglary and going equipped to steal.

Ray Fitzpatrick from Big Mumma’s Fish and Chips in Bank St responded strongly to the break-in and loss of earnings.

The shop was sealed behind police tape last week.

‘‘(I’m) gutted,’’ Mr Fitzpatrick said.

‘‘To walk in and find that the office had been trashed wasn’t really a good start to the day.

‘‘Being a small business, I don’t know what people think, whether they think a fish and chip shop makes a lot of money, but for us it’s hard to get what comes in each day.

‘‘We notified the police straightaway, not realising that other businesses had been done as well.’’

Mr Fitzpatrick said thieves knew police finished work at midnight, so businesses were vulnerable after that time.

‘‘Cobram’s lacking a 24-hour police station,’’ he said.

‘‘It needs it. We’ve got a larger population and it’s growing every week, so a 24-hour station is what’s needed.

‘‘Every business is open to this sort of opportunity to be smashed or ram-raided. To have seven done in one night, two done last week, it’s just not good enough.’’

Sharon Davey from Cobram Chiropractic was another business owner who was not happy when she discovered the damage to her premises.

‘‘I’ve never seen anything like it in 27 years,’’ she said. ‘‘This is unusual for the town of Cobram.’’

Jason Bignell from Cobram Newsagency had a rude shock when he arrived at work at 4am on Thursday to find the back door had been broken.

‘‘I rang my father and once we entered, there didn’t appear to be anything stolen, just some damage to the alarm system and the back door and they pulled out a couple of drawers,’’ he said.

‘‘But they don’t appear to have got anything, which is good.

‘‘I rang the police and spoke to somebody — I think it was in Wangaratta — before I entered at 4am, because there was no-one on here at Cobram until later in the morning.

‘‘The police officer at Yarrawonga saw the call when he came on at 6am and thought he’d better come over.

‘‘So he’s come over and had a look and checked it all out and passed on the report to the rest of them and Cobram police turned up about 10am.

‘‘With the amount of break-ins happening in this town at the moment, I think we really need 24-hour policing — we really do.

‘‘They need to provide the funding.

‘‘We need a police presence at night and that’s the big problem — we don’t have it.’’

Mr Biggin said he would install security cameras as a response to the break-in.

‘‘You won’t be able to move in or near this place without getting caught on camera,’’ he said.

Sue Campbell was notified about an attempted break-in at the retail homewares store D’Vine Ideas in High St, which is run by her daughters Paula and Melissa.

‘‘I got a phone call to say the shop had been smashed into,’’ she said.

‘‘Someone tried to enter and they were unsuccessful.

‘‘But they smashed the door badly and it has got to be replaced.’’

Ms Campbell said she didn’t allow anyone to enter the shop until police arrived to collect evidence.

‘‘They tried to get in but they couldn’t because there was glass everywhere and I didn’t want anyone to enter until I got the okay off the police,’’ she said.

‘‘They said to clean up the glass and open the door, but I wasn’t allowed to touch anything while we were waiting on the camera and fingerprint people.’’

Florrangements Florist in Bank St was also struck.

Proprietor Lorraine Swanson-Hoyle said she was a bit angry when she found out thieves had tried to enter her shop.

‘‘I got a phone call from next door at Big Mumma’s, from Cheryl, and she said ‘how are you this morning?’ I said ‘okay’ and she said ‘you’ve just been broken into’,’’ Ms Swanson-Hoyle said.

‘‘So I arrived here and saw the glass everywhere. But they didn’t get in, so there is nothing missing.

‘‘We have security cameras, so we got some pictures of them.

‘‘It can only get better from here.’’

Cobram police said the public played a key role in the arrests by sharing photos on Facebook and police were thankful.

The 18-year-old has been bailed to appear at the Shepparton Magistrates’ Court on August 28.

The 16-year-old has been bailed and will appear at a children’s court at a later date.

- Grahame Whyte

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