Dozens of police officers launched early morning raids on a suspected gang of thieves which has targeted charity shops and businesses around the region in burglaries totalling £500,000.
Officers used battering rams to swoop into properties to arrest suspects on suspicion of conspiracy to burgle, after stores and a number factories were targeted in Wolverhampton, Dudley, Walsall and parts of Staffordshire.
Six addresses were raided as part of the police fightback against suspected members of the gang, which has been linked to 67 burglaries.
Operation Abriel saw police swoop on two homes in Low Hill, two in Bilston, one in Willenhall, and one at flats in Heath Town.
Four men were arrested as around 40 police officers from both West Midlands and Staffordshire Police took part in the operation.
- A 22-year-old from Longfield House, Heath Town
- A 26-year-old from Moseley Road, Bilston
- A 26-year-old from Foster Road, Low Hill
- A 47-year-old from Willenhall Road, Willenhall
Burglars are said to have dropped in through the roofs of the buildings they were targeting.
Raids took place from 7.30am, with the Express & Star given exclusive access to the swoops.
Suspects were woken from their beds and handcuffed before being led away in unmarked police cars.
Det Insp Clair Langley, of Staffordshire Police, said: "This is a joint operation between West Midlands and Staffordshire Police.
"The suspects are believed to be involved in commercial burglaries, including those of charity shops and factories.
"We believe they access the buildings through the roof."
She said the total value of the raids, which happened between June last year and February this year, had reached £500,000.
"These have had significant impact on business premises particularly in relation to charity shops.
"There have been break-ins overnight through roofs predominately stealing safes and cash contents.
"Over a nine months period we have 67 business targeted so it was important to make progress.
"Six addresses have been raided and four people have been detained at the police station in Oldbury.
"They have made half a million since we started the operation.
"There were 40 police officers at work during these raids, and we continue to work together to bring offenders justice."
Officers took the arrested suspects into custody in Oldbury where they were interviewed.
More suspects were still being sought this afternoon.
Six Compton Hospice charity shops have been targeted by thieves since December 2016.
The stores targeted were in Wolverhampton, Codsall, Brierley Hill, Willenhall and Cannock.
On March 1 this year, the would-be thieves smashed through a skylight at the Birches Bridge store in Wolverhampton Road, Codsall. They broke through a plastered wall inside, but left with nothing after being unable to get inside the safe.
The damage at the shops has left the charity with a repair bill of more than £3,500.
At the shop on Trysull Road in Merry Hill, Wolverhampton, raiders got in to the store on February 16 through a rear window. The safe was damaged, but unopened.
Only in two of the burglaries – at Skinner Street in Wolverhampton and High Street Brierley Hill on January 29 and February 8 – did thieves manage to take the safe.
During the burglary in Church Street, Cannock, in December, the would-be thieves broke the alarm and CCTV system, but escaped with nothing.
The shop in Stafford Street in Willenhall was broken in to between Christmas and New Year’s Eve – but again the thieves caused damage to a rear door, sorting room and the safe, but left empty handed.
Days after the sixth break-in, more than £1,000 was donated to the charity through an online appeal.
A total of 88 people made the donations, with charity staff taking to social media to thank those that had given funds.
The charity provides care to people in the Black Country, Staffordshire and East Shropshire.Subscribe to our Newsletter