'Be aware' warning to Ross-shire businesses over criminal activity as communities rally round; Black Isle and Dingwall areas affected in spate of attempts
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A STRING of business break-ins and reports of attempted fraud have prompted calls for Ross-shire residents to remain on high alert after an apparent spike in post-lockdown criminal activity.
Cafe Ems and Co in Dingwall's railway station was targeted overnight on Monday this week with a door panel smashed after a would-be intruder climbed a locked gate to gain access. Although the attempt was unsuccessful, owner Emily Black was left cleaning up the mess when she arrived for work.
She said: "Be on alert everyone, there have been a lot of break-ins lately and I don’t wish it on anyone."
Police have been informed and CCTV footage is being examined.
She later thanked the community for rallying round as she re-opened for business.
She posted: "Just wanted to say a big thank you to everyone for your support after a difficult day. We’re not going to let it get us down, and we’re fully stocked today, ready to go! Special thanks have to go to those who helped fix the damage, Niall Bruce and Kevin Ross electrician, and Police Scotland for being so supportive."
It follows costly break-ins at the Cromarty Brewing Company and The Egg Box the previous week – incidents which are being linked by police.
Merchandise was stolen and laptops were taken from the brewery premises after a door was smashed to gain entry.
The Egg Box, a 24-hour vending machine operation nearby which kept many fed during lockdown, was also targeted in the early hours of Thursday morning last week.
Both businesses, which have since re-opened, declared themselves "overwhelmed" with the public response to their plight as police issued a description of a white, 6ft tall male of average build wearing a white baseball cap, a green or navy snood and a navy coloured fleece and dark, combat-style trousers.
Fettes Sawmill on the Black Isle meanwhile warned others to be alert after uncovering an elaborate scam which could have left them over £4000 out of pocket.
That involved someone calling to place a small order, taking details to pay by bank transfer and then calling the following day to say they had overpaid in error, demanding a refund. While payment was shown as pending over the weekend while banks were closed, suspicions were raised.
The ruse was tracked back to a cheque paid in through a cash dispenser machine in Birmingham – a cheque which bounced on Tuesday this week. The business warned: "Please keep a look out as they are very persuasive, and convincing. We have been lucky! Please feel free to share and get this out there!"
Brenda Jack of Dingwall was amongst many taking to Facebook to show solidarity. She said: "The really hurtful thing is that it was these businesses who took the extra steps to help us all out during lockdown. Keep your eyes and ears wide open everyone. Anything you feel is not right or makes you in the slightest way uneasy or suspicious – report it!"