convenience stores and post offices in East Anglia. The men - all aged between 17 and 23 and all from gypsy camps - have been remanded in custody and will appear at Ipswich Crown Court on September 29.
The five suspects were arrested after dawn raids on sites in Cambridgeshire and Suffolk. More than 500 officers, some of them armed, and a police helicopter were involved in the operation.
Over the past 18 months, more than 80 c-stores in East Anglia have been attacked by ram raiders using stolen 4x4 vehicles to smash their way in and rip out cash machines. Operation Artic, involving officers from the Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and Essex constabularies, was launched in August 2004 in a bid to catch the pepetrators.
Earlier this year two men were charged with a number of the raids (C-Store March 25) but police believe they have now made a major breakthrough. Head of Operation Artic detective chief inspector George Barr said: “We believe we have identified a group of people who are responsible for more than 30 of these very serious offences and believe they were the ringleaders. “I’m very pleased by these latest arrests but we will continue to work hard to prevent this type of crime occurring as the winter months approach.”
Brian Moorey, who manages the Budgens store in the village of Sawston, Cambridgeshire, which was attacked by ram raiders in August last year, said: “I think these arrests will be a weight off the minds of a lot of retailers in the region. “I remember turning up the morning after we suffered a ram raid and the front of the store was a mess.” Police are now hunting a further two men wanted in connection with the raids.