Shop owners in Preston has warned retailers about a spree of distraction burglaries targeting live-in shop owners of Asian descent. 

Nimesh Patel, owner of Best-One in Preston says seven male and female gang members entered his store on Friday December 8. While all but one asked queries on pricing and availability to distract the staff member behind the till, the remaining burglar snuck through the door to the store room, up the stairs and into the residential premises above.

The same gang has targeted Kiran Solanki, owner of K&M stores in Preston multiple times over the last three years. He told Retail Express: "They are watching the shops, they know exactly where, when and how to do this."

Patel told Retail Express that the thieves worked to obscure his line of sight and keep his attention away from the back of the store to enable the theft. “It was very well rehearsed, it is like something you see on TV” he said.

There are many more retailers in the area that have also been targeted, with some reporting losses of up to £10,000. A forensic officer also told Patel that they had seen other similar cases recently.

Nimesh Patel warned: “It’s only a matter of time before they visit a store where somebody’s at home upstairs and this escalates to something worse.”

Retailers have previously warned that budget cuts leave shops vulnerable to burglaries and non-domestic crime. This was supported by Kiran Solanki, who said he is now often a victim of racially motivated abuse and vandalism. "There are so many cutbacks now, I've phoned the police when the burglars were still in the store or when my windows have been attacked several days in a row. They say nobody is available to respond, it's like they don't care about racially motivated crime any more."