Crime is a frustrating problem for Essex-based Shell dealer Goran Raven, whose insurance premium has risen 45% due to a series of incidents in the past six months. But he says recent violent tobacco theft could have been worse without ’smart’ tobacco gantry

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Independent Shell retailer Goran Raven has slammed the lack of police support following yet another robbery at his Essex-based operation, saying he may as well tell the police what colour socks he’s wearing, for all the good supplying any information does.

Goran, director of long-established family business Raven’s Budgens in Abridge, was still smarting from a violent tobacco theft which had seen thieves armed with a concrete cutter break into his store, cutting locks and the shutter, and causing a huge amount of damage.

“Essex police have said the case is closed which is very frustrating,” he said. “This particular incident happened on January 16 at 3.20 in the morning, when an Audi estate pulled up and four guys got out. One of them was carrying a large builders refuse bag, and another one had a concrete cutter. They cut through the locks on the door, then they cut through the shutter, then they went straight down to the tobacco gantry,” explained Goran, who captured it all on CCTV. 

Luckily, they were prevented from stealing too much as the site has a Navarra Smart gantry, which has locks and internal chutes, making it more difficult and time-consuming for anyone trying to break into it.

“Where they’re used to just tipping a gantry forward and everything falls into the bag, they couldn’t do that with the Navarra, which I’d left open to minimise damage – otherwise they’d just knock seven bells out of it,” explained Goran. “They escaped with 62 packs of cigarettes and just caused a huge amount of damage really. It could have been worse, but obviously it’s still frustrating.

“The gantry is repairable, and the staff at Navarra have been amazing. I phoned them up and the director was here within 48 hours, did what he could and then returned the next day with all the parts he needed. So it’s all fixed now.

“I had a partial number plate and I have a friend in the police that found the full number plate for me. I gave this to the officers in charge of my case, but they said they didn’t think they would be using that plate anymore and just closed the case. It was absolutely infuriating.

“An hour ago, we chased a shoplifter out of here and he had five bottles of wine. We managed to get four back because we chased him on foot. The police turned up and again were barely interested – they said look he’s got a mask on, we won’t be able to identify him and you’re a commercial business, so you’re insured…”

Goran explained that crime was an ongoing problem at the store: “As we speak I have an engineer here installing a fog bandit. I’m the 4th generation in my family to run the business - we’ve been with Shell for 93 years! In my time I’ve witnessed 20 robberies in about as many years, and we’ve only had a conviction once.

“Same thing with make-offs. I may as well ring the police up and tell them what colour socks I’m wearing because I haven’t seen a prosecution for a make-off in excess of a decade now.”

Because of all the issues – the site has endured two robberies and the front windows being smashed six times in the past seven months – the insurance policy has gone up 45%: “To keep ourselves insured I’ve had to purchase hammer glass to go across the front door, and I had to take on a security firm,” said Goran. “And we’re in a village surrounded by fields. It’s only because of these measures that Aviva, the company we insure with, would reinsure us.

“The annoying thing is, the chap who’s been smashing our windows - the security firm went after him, we got a number plate, we knew where we lived – he’d been phoning the shop with threats as well. We reported this to the police, and it took them 13 weeks to go and pay him a visit, by which point he’d come back and smashed our windows again. He’s not even local.”

However, despite the latest tobacco theft, Goran said the incident would not stop him selling cigarettes: “Smokers are regular customers, and they pick up other items - they’re big basket spenders. So if I was to get rid of cigarettes I’d be chopping my nose off to spite my face.”

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Ravens Budgens CCTV