Hundreds of robberies in Sunderland

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ARMED robbers have used guns, knives, bottles and hammers to demand cash from businesses across Wearside.

During the last three years, 101 weapons have been used to threaten staff at city businesses as well as scare Wearsiders into handing over their cash.

In total, 23 knives and other bladed weapons were used, along with eight handguns, two shotguns, an air weapon, 11 bottles, 12 hammers and 44 other weapons, including a chair leg, scissors and a CD rack.

According to figures obtained by the Echo, a further 331 robberies without weapons took place across the city during the same time.

The figures show that, on average, there is a robbery on Wearside about every three days and an armed robbery about every 11 days.

However, police say the number of armed robberies is relatively small and there were 25 fewer in 2010 than in 2009.

A total of 136 people were arrested and charged with robbery. The youngest being just 11 and the oldest 47.

Sally and Imam Chowdhury say they were robbed earlier this month.

Their shop, on Hendon Valley Road, Hendon, has already been targeted by vandals and thieves and suffered an attempted armed robbery.

In the latest attack, Sally, 29, said a man snatched a bag containing £2,000 in takings from her home, after following her 11-year-old daughter from the store on Saturday, January 15.

Just days earlier, an axe-wielding robber terrorised shop assistant Kelly Clarkson, 38, demanding she fill up his bag with goods. Brave Kelly refused his demands until the masked man fled empty-handed towards Villette Road.

It is not thought the incidents are linked.

Mum-of-four Sally pleaded for her staff and the shop to be left alone by criminals. She said: “Every month my windows are smashed.

“There are three community officers who are excellent with what they are doing on foot, but doing duty in cars is nothing.

“The trouble is not because I’m Asian, but because people don’t have enough money and there are too much drugs and alcohol about.

“It’s not wanting to improve the area just for me, it’s for everyone. I’ve stopped selling alcohol so I don’t have the problems with that. I feel sorry for people - humans shouldn’t do this to each other.

“Some of the children never go to school; they hang round asking shops for cigarettes and alcohol.

Neighbourhood Inspector John Connolly, who covers the area, said: “I would like to reassure the community that every crime reported to police is thoroughly investigated and all lines of inquiry are followed to make sure appropriate action is taken.” Police are still appealing for witnesses.

George Cain, who represents Wearside shopworkers for Usdaw (Union of Shop Distributive and Allied Workers), said of the number of robberies in the Wearside area: “This is such a problem that we actually run annual workshops called Freedom From Fear, which highlights the plight of people who have been robbed or attacked in some way.

“I know some people who have never returned to work after a robbery because of the fear. It can have lifelong effects.”

Police continue to wage their war against robberies and have teamed up with betting shops and other businesses to help them secure their premises.

Chief Superintendent Rachel Kearton, Sunderland Area Commander, said: “The number of armed robberies is relatively low and only count for a small proportion of the total number - there were 25 fewer armed robberies in Sunderland in 2010 than in 2009. It’s also important to recognise that not all armed robberies mean a firearm has been used.

“An armed robbery is where any type of weapon has been used.

“However, we do understand that robberies can be incredibly distressing for those involved and raise the fear of crime for our communities.

“We continue to take robust action against anyone responsible and work closely with other organisations to offer crime prevention advice to help stop people from being victims of a robbery in the first place.”

* Anyone who has any information about the Valley Road robberies should contact Northumbria Police on 03456 043 043 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

* A 28-year-old man has been arrested in relation to the alleged theft of £2,000 and released on police bail.