Burglaries at garden centre blamed on credit crunch

A spate of burglaries at Foxwood Garden Centre in Durham is due to the credit crunch, according to owner Kenny Lyonette.

Foxwood Garden Centre at Chester-le-Street has been targeted by intruders several times since Tony Jones and Kenny Lyonette took over the premises in January 2006.

Lyonette said there had been 15 incidents in two years, but six of those had been in the past three months.

Most of the previous thefts were of stock lying outside the main greenhouse building.

But the premises has suffered a three apparently more determined break-ins, as raiders have forced their way into the building, stealing thousands of pounds of stock as well as cash from a safe.

Lyonette said:

"Since the credit crunch kicked in it's got worse. Now we've improved CCTV but that doesn't deter - it's only evidence once we've been broken into."

Lyonette has also had more sensors installed and is considering employing a security guard as a last resort.

Undeterred, intruders have since stolen around £2,000, including the contents of a safe, from the manager's office.

Lyonette added: "We've done everything we can to try to make things work well here and improve the business.

"It was quite run down when we took over and we've spent around £100,000 improving it, adding a coffee shop and a children's play area, and putting on events to attract the public. But you despair when you keep getting knocked back like this.

"We're in an isolated area. We're just trying to keep one step ahead. We no longer keep cash on the premises overnight and change our routines often.

"The police used dogs and helicopters on the last break in, in an immediate response. And we've asked transport police about getting Network Rail to put up a bigger fence."

A Durham Police representative said today that three people were arrested and questioned following the latest raid and inquiries into the break-ins are continuing.

On a more positive note, Lyonette said that Christmas had been good for tree and houseplant sales, with 890 Christmas trees sold.

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