The Shed is the headquarters of the Horrabridge Times and this is its occasional editorial platform … see for more

Attention is rightly being drawn to the problem of organised crime getting away with an ever-increasing tax on farming, in the form of fingers-to-all thefts of plant, vehicles, tools, fuel and anything else you can move with the resources of an international mafia of travelling gangs. Lately, isolated sports clubs are suffering too.

Meanwhile, the same predators have been hitting small-town businesses in the same way for some time, and getting away with that too.

A year or so ago, a nephew of ours, plumber, heating engineer and joiner, lost £7,000 worth of tools when his well-secured van was completely emptied outside his house in a part of Paignton with plenty of CCTV to go at, if anybody was interested. Last we heard, he was still whistling for any insurance, for one reason and another. The police gave him a crime number and shrugged. Their advice is to empty your van every night. Not easily done for a modern mobile tradesman.

Anyway, our nephew heard on the grapevine that there were five similar robberies in Paignton in 24 hours. And a similar series of professional-style hits on one side of Torbay or another in the days either side.

Turned out to be true. And turned out to be a pattern which has been repeated all the time in one medium-size town or another in Devon and Cornwall for some time.

Dealing through its press office, Devon & Cornwall Police were not keen to discuss the situation. They only occasionally publish a routine appeal for information about the crimes. We had to use the Freedom of Information procedure to get the figures for robberies from tradesmen’s vans for the first three months of 2017 – although fair enough they were provided fairly quickly when requested.

The figures were startling and the Horrabridge Times ran a story on them in the hope of interesting other publications and Members of Parliament. At the time, being cautious, we suggested that the police had been slow in responding to a blip in this kind of activity. The police went along with that reading. But then we wondered if it really was a blip and got the figures for 2016 and updated the 2017 figures to June this year.

Our mistake was to suggest there was anything new going on. The tax on us all is rising but the pattern was well established last year and presumably well before. The target areas shift around a bit but somewhere tonight or tomorrow, in Exeter or Plymouth, Newton Abbot or Ivybridge, Tiverton or Exmouth, Barnstaple, Bideford, Crediton or St Austell, another half a dozen working people are likely to lose their savings or their businesses. No doubt it is the same everywhere.

We would like to tell you how many of the hundreds of crimes of this sort in Devon & Cornwall over the past two years have led to prosecutions but we have to go back through the FoI procedure for that. Which suggests that the answer is not very many.

It is a difficult scene to police, but if people had a vote on the spending of resources, there are many who would say it is past time that some elements of this low trade were jumped on from a great height.

If anybody has any experience of this matter, we would be pleased to hear directly at

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