Raiders targeted two Co-op stores in the Black Country within an hour today, injuring one worker and fleeing with cash and cigarettes.
A gang of robbers, believed to have been carrying weapons, struck at stores in Tividale and Wolverhampton.
A member of staff suffered a small cut in the raid at the branch in Regent Road, in Tividale, at around 6.45am.
Police have not yet determined exactly how the employee was injured, but spokesman Lee Page said it is believed there were reports of weapons. He said ‘several’ offenders threatened staff before fleeing in a vehicle empty-handed.
Shocked staff at the store declined to comment today but workers at White Cross Vets, next door, said there was a police car outside the store when they arrived at work at around 8.20am.
A member of staff said they believed it was the second time the Co-op had been robbed since the vets opened in April.
Neighbour Margery Lowe, a retired shop assistant and mother of one, aged 78, said: “I’m just shocked. It’s obviously very worrying to have that happen near the house.”
Great grandfather and Burma veteran John Jones, of nearby Fairway Avenue, said shop robberies were a growing problem.
“There’s a lot of this going on today. There’s a lot of folk about who’d rather steal than work,” said the 89-year-old. “It’s shocking.”
The second robbery happened at the Co-op on Penn Road, in Wolverhampton, at around 7.45am today.
Again ‘several’ offenders threatened staff, this time getting away in a vehicle with cigarettes and cash. Police believe the two robberies are linked.
Nobody was injured in the second raid. Police cordoned off the store while they carried out investigations today. Uniformed and plain-clothes officers arrived in four police cars and two police vans.
Managers at nearby businesses said they were alarmed, but not surprised, by what had happened.
David Dent, manager at Tesco Express, across the road from the Co-op food store, said: “It’s becoming more and more common. It seems to be happening more and more of late.
“It is not great when it’s close to home, but I’m not surprised. It could have been us, easily. I don’t know how they [the raiders] make their decisions.
“It’s something very you just put to the back of your mind. It is just something you have to be careful about and just be aware of it.”
Witnesses or anyone with information should contact the Serious Acquisitive Crime team at Force CID in Bloxwich on 101 or the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.