Police in the South East have launched a series of high-visibility patrols around c-stores and post offices in a bid to curb the spate of ram raids in the region.

The new patrols, which are being conducted by the multi-force initiative Operation Arctic, are intended as a deterrent to ram raiders and to reassure members of the public and store staff.

Detective Inspector George Barr, who is heading up the operation, commented: “These ram raids are very serious offences. As a police service it’s probably our most prevailing serious crime problem across the region.”

Operation Arctic has so far led to five people being arrested and charged in connection with the raids, which have topped the 100 mark since last August.

In the latest incident, thieves reversed a tipper-truck through a side wall of the Budgens store in Dersingham, Norfolk, in the early hours of the morning, and dragged its ATM machine out into the street.

Deputy store manager Odette Wood said: “We thought we were quite secure with shutters over the windows and over the doors, plus bollards in front of the door, so it was a massive shock. You just don’t expect someone to ram through the wall.”