DARING THIEVES? LISMORE SQUARE HEIST
By ZOE SATHERLEY
THE THIEVES came in the dead of night, cutting a hole through the roof of the Lismore Shopping Square.
By yesterday morning, it became apparent they had dropped into five shops, getting away with over $17,000 in goods and cash.
In shop 68, Bras and Things, manager Rae Kelly was incredulous that the bolts holding her steel safe to the floor of the rear storeroom had been sheared off.
Directly above, a ceiling panel had been removed giving a clear view of the hole in the roof through which it is thought the thieves entered the complex some time between closing time on Sunday and opening time yesterday.
Police from the Crime Scene Investigation Unit, the Special Target Action Group and Lismore detectives were all on the scene yesterday, gathering evidence.
"The robbers obviously came prepared with tools," Ms Kelly said, showing how the shop's cash register had been cut open with a cutting implement.
"They took all of that cash, as well as the whole safe, which had a substantial amount of money in it, but didn't touch the clothing.
"Who would know we had a safe in the back room unless they'd seen it?
"What worries me most is that we have workmen in the roof all of the time.
"You hear people up there every day. I feel quite vulnerable now."
Next door in shop 69, Vision Eyewear, manager Suzana Sexton was still coming to terms with losing her entire stock of high fashion Bolle sunglasses, valued at over $5000, and a sum of cash.
When she arrived to open the shop, the perspex cabinet dis- playing the 27 pairs of sunglasses was missing. She found it had been pushed into the rear storeroom where it was ransacked.
The thieves then went back up through her ceiling to gain access to other neighbouring shops ? Noni B, Roger David and EB Games ? where they stole Nintendo and other game consoles and 'gamecube' games.
Police yesterday urged all businesses to urgently re-evalu- ate their security provisions.
Crime Prevention Officer Snr Const Michael Hogan said shopowners should consider upgrading in-shop security with internal alarm systems and using secure fixing methods for their safes.
He also suggested more regular banking of takings. "The more deterrents you provide the less chance you have of being a victim," he said.
Snr Const Hogan asked residents to contact police immediately if they have any information relating to the offence or become aware of any of the stolen property being offered for sale.
Glen Thorpe, a spokesman for McConaghy Retail, which owns Lismore Shopping Square, expressed his sympathy for those affected by the robbery.
He said the complex had a three-tiered approach to security ? a 70-camera closed circuit TV system which was both monitored and recorded with film stored for several years, security guards on patrol throughout shopping hours and after-hours patrols throughout the night.
He said security would be reevaluated in the light of yesterday's incident, but that individual stores should consider providing their own in-store security, as they would with any other business.As forensic police dusted for fingerprints and searched for clues, shopkeepers and customers gathered to talk about the brazen robbery.
It was the second time thieves had gained access to Lismore Square shops through the roof, with a similar robbery occurring in 1996.