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Things at the grassroots level are now at a stage of siege. Dealers feel abandoned and hopeless and are giving up. Attacks mainly on older and single women continue unchecked but nobody has been apprehended, even though there appears to be a constant gang presence at some venues.

For instance, a lady I know has just had her entire stock stolen from her driveway after being at a fair in Kent. She has no way of recovering or continuing her business.

Of course, the fair organisers who have really stepped up security cannot protect dealers in transit or at their homes.

At one point I had high hopes some police officers had been taking an interest and were investigating this gang and they did appear to be taking it seriously.

Widespread problem

I think the issue is widespread. I attended a local council meeting recently and the whole event was taken up with discussions of crime, anti-social behaviour, lack of police and lack of law and order.

Obviously we all realise that the country is broken and struggling. However, do the public realise quite how unsupported they now are? One hears constantly of ordinary shops being stolen from every single day.

A friend in Islington says all the shops are being raided by groups on a daily basis, even little food shops.

People cannot work and live in a constant state of fear.

My only advice is the trade should remain hyper-vigilant at all times. Dealers should have chains and locks on cases and bags. Never leave stock unattended in cars. Where possible, for women in particular, do not work or travel alone.

I also recommend investing in dash-cams and if possible bodycams. We really are in a state of siege now and all we can do is damage limitation.

In terms of dealers’ routines, they should vary routes and routines and, where possible, particularly for jewellery dealers, wear gilets with pockets under coats and one or even two cross-body bags and split your stock across different bags.

Even when buying you need to be careful. People should avoid showing or counting money and instead have it pre-prepared in envelopes.

However tempting it may seem to respond to a tap on a car window or to look when someone points to say you dropped something, do not.

Think first and stick with logic. Do not open your door or look down and do not let go or lose sight of your valuables. Do not let yourself get distracted. I know it is hard to go against your natural reaction but think first as these criminal gangs use diversion tactics to steal.

Above all, should anything happen we must continue to report to the police and get a crime reference number. This is very important for further investigations of the situation as a whole.

From a third generation antiques dealer