By Luke Voogt
Geelong West retailers are battling a surge of burglaries and thefts, with one alleged thief sneaking into a staff room during working hours last week.
Geelong Fresh Foods offered a $500 reward for information on a man who brazenly walked into the store’s staffroom, allegedly stealing wallets and personal items.
Store owner Carmel Dawson said shoplifting “happens all the time” but this week’s theft was the first time items had been taken from her staffroom.
“When it’s in our staff room and they’re (stealing) our private property, that’s the next level. It makes us feel very unsafe.”
Ms Dawson said shoplifters stealing exotic items were a constant source of frustration.
“If it was something they needed for their family I could understand. If someone came in and stole some apples or potatoes I would be sympathetic.
“But when they come in and steal things that aren’t necessary – like truffle paste – it makes you angry.”
But a strategy that beat overnight store burglaries in Ocean Grove is on the way to Geelong West, police have revealed.
Police will first encourage Geelong West traders to close stores without leaving money inside as burglary rates surge on Pakington Street.
Leaving money in-store was turning shops into targets for burglars, Geelong Senior Constable Andrew King said.
“I was talking to a retailer about it this morning. I think it’s a problem around all of Geelong.
“You can’t go leaving a day’s takings or a float in stores overnight because you’ll get offenders taking advantage of that.
“Every retail burglary I’ve been to, I’ve recommended they don’t keep money on the premises.”
Sen Const King’s “no-cash-on-premises” initiative would involve Geelong West stores displaying empty till inserts in streetfront windows.
Shop owners could also display signs stating that no cash was held on the property.
“That indicates to anyone with any illegal intentions that they’re wasting their time but if you don’t actually (remove the cash) the sign means nothing.”
The initiative would be a first for Geelong, Sen Const King said.
“Over time I’ll bring it in all over Geelong.”
The Ocean Grove Voice reported in June that police introduced the initiative after a burglary crimewave in the town’s centre.
“It was clearly seen as a soft target and we had to bring in something that would restrict easy access to cash,” Sen Const King said.
“It was quite successful.”
Bellarine police Sergeant Mick Knight confirmed a “dramatic reduction” in shop burglaries in Ocean Grove.
Sen Const King worked with the Ocean Grove Business Association to introduce the initiative and hoped to unite Geelong West store owners with their own traders’ group.
“They used to have one and for whatever reason it fell over.
“I have to, basically, go door to door or use resources such as the Indy to let traders know about issues that are happening in certain areas.”
Sen Const King urged anyone with information relating to the staff room theft to phone Geelong police on 5225 3100.