Traders organise patrols after 17 New Milton businesses ransacked
ITV Meridian's Richard Slee has spoken to business owners to get their reactions after the burglaries
Hampshire police have increased patrols in a town in the New Forest after a series of break-ins at shops and offices.
In the past week, seventeen premises have been burgled in New Milton town centre and, now, traders have organised their own patrols at night.
A burglar was caught on CCTV smashing a cash till after breaking into a shop a couple of nights ago.
The owner of Small World Reptiles, Imogen Burt, was the victim of this break-in.
She has been so concerned that he would come back, she joined others on patrol in the town centre, and then slept on her shop floor.
Imogen said: "It took three burglaries last night before there was a police patrol going around the area, before that it was the community going around. I was here until half nine, went home, had a shower, had dinner. Came back at half eleven, patrolled until half one and then stayed here."
Liam Bailey, who owns an electrical shop has also been out on patrol recently.
A thief came in through the rear window of his business last Friday and was then also captured on CCTV as he ransacked the shop.
Liam has criticised the slow police response, saying: "They know they can go and commit crime and they've got a good 50 or 60 minutes even if they will come out. Multiple people have been told 'we can't attend break-ins anymore, we can't deal with all the inquiries. Underfunded, under resourced etc. So who pays the price for that? We do."
Several businesses in the town captured the burglaries on CCTV
A charity shop was also burgled this week, where there was small pickings for the damage caused.
Chris Carian, Mencap volunteer said: "Everything they pulled out. Books, CD's, the whole of the cabinets. Even under the basin, wherever they thought the money would be."
Among the other recent targets is a shoe shop, a local cafe and a jewellers, which caused thousands of pounds worth of damage.
This scale of town centre burglaries is unprecedented in New Milton and people are angry and upset.
Interview with Chief Inspector Nick Marsden, Hampshire Police
Hampshire Police has confirmed that there have been 17 break-ins over the past seven days, all within a half mile radius of the town centre.
Despite this, business owners have been advised against organising their own patrols.
Ch Insp Nick Marsden, Hampshire Police said: "I would recommend that residents don't get involved in those sort of things. But I would also encourage them to provide us with information and that information from the public is so crucial to our response and how we can tackle emerging issues like this."
The police said a big effort is underway to solve these crimes, and that includes an increase in officers on patrol.