Owner of Grafton Travel Corey Bertalli looks through his large safe which was broken into on the weekend along with a number of businesses in Prince Street.
Owner of Grafton Travel Corey Bertalli looks through his large safe which was broken into on the weekend along with a number of businesses in Prince Street.

Crime spree hits shops

THIEVES went on a door-to-door break-in spree in Grafton’s main street on Sunday night and these incidents, along with recent violence in the CBD, have sparked renewed calls for video surveillance and a higher police presence.

None of the four Prince Street premises broken into had video surveillance and although forensic police were busy gathering fingerprint evidence from the shops yesterday, investigators said closed circuit television (CCTV) images would certainly make the job of identifying criminals easier.

The Daily Examiner spoke to three of the affected traders yesterday, including Grafton Travel, Cutting Edge Hair Salon and Thompson, Wheelahan and Hampshire (TWH) Solicitors, who all expressed concern at the seemingly escalating crime problem in the area.

Police are examining video footage from Grafton Ten Pin Bowling, which was also broken into on Sunday night.

Detective Senior Constable Matt Sippel said CCTV was invaluable as an investigative tool and its success locally had been demonstrated repeatedly at Grafton Shoppingworld, where footage had been used to both identify and prosecute criminals.

“Shoppingworld’s criminal incidents are minor in comparison with Prince Street recently, which shows that cameras can be an effective deterrent for crime,” Det Sippel said.

Det Sippel, who heads Grafton Police’s Target Action Group, said the towns of Bourke, Dubbo and Lismore had installed CCTV systems with tremendous success.

But he said CCTV was just one of many investigative tools used by police. He also rated eyewitness accounts highly in the investigative process.

“Someone has got to have seen something on Sunday night or Monday morning – these people were active for a while,” he said.

Though no significant amounts of cash or goods were taken in the break-ins, traders expressed concern the brazen thieves took their time, choosing either front or rear entry to the premises as needed.

TWH partner Nick Hampshire said he was amazed the thieves gained entry through the office’s front door considering it used to be the ANZ bank and was also lit by a security light.

“They must have used a sledgehammer and a crowbar,” said Mr Hampshire, who had already begun plans to upgrade security.

The criminals took some petty cash and social club money from the office but although there was a little bit of mess, there was little damage to the office.

“I find it strange that a professional lot can come into town and go door-to-door and break-in with the lights on without being caught,” Mr Hampshire said.

He joined the call for a CCTV system to be installed and monitored by police.

Grafton Travel operator Corey Bertalli, whose business is also located in a former bank, said his massive wall safe had been opened and the small safe inside also penetrated after the thieves gained entry from the front.

“We do keep important travel documents, clients’ passports and keys in there but we’ve checked and they’re all fine,” Mr Bertalli said.

“We’re going to have to review our security procedures ... At this stage we are not sure what’s missing – not much cash.

“Why would they want to break into a travel agent?” he asked.

“We have the most secure travel brochures in Australia.”

Julie Burke and Laura Fernando said the thieves gained entry at the front of their shop by jimmying the front lock with a cheap scissor tool they found at the rear of their shop.

“Nothing’s gone ... We had no money here,” Mrs Burke said.

“They tried the back but couldn’t get in.”

It is thought the thieves gained entry to a nearby florist from a back alley.

The Daily Examiner sought comment from the Grafton Chamber of Commerce yesterday but no response had been received at the time of print.

CCTV is listed as a priority project on the chamber’s website.

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