BURGLARS have been raiding the homes of family-run business owners, stealing £40,000 from a safe in a single devastating raid.

The thieves have been targeting the owners of cash-reliant takeaways and restaurants in Worcestershire, including one just north of Worcester on Friday evening. During that particular burglary the safe was taken containing the money.

Officers tasked with investigating the raids have said such burglaries have been 'devastating' for business owners and their families at a time when they have already been struggling due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The ongoing investigation is at a sensitive stage and, at the moment, officers are not disclosing the names of the businesses that have been targeted while they continue their enquiries.

However, the six house burglaries have all taken place across Worcestershire over the last six weeks. In the meantime all businesses have been advised to make sure their takings are banked frequently and not stored in homes as they appeal for information which could catch the offenders.

DI Dave Knight, based at Worcester Police Station, said he believed some sort of surveillance was taking place in relation to these offences and that it was part of a wider, national problem.

DI Knight said: "We have a dedicated team of detectives investigating this series of offences. We are taking this very seriously. This has had a devastating emotional and financial impact upon the victims who work hard to keep their businesses successful during testing Covid times."

The offences involve the burglars following the victims to their home address or targeting them at accommodation linked to their business premises.

Inspector Fergus Green said it was not larger chains that were being targeted but smaller, independent and often family-run food outlets, takeaways and hospitality businesses known to be reliant on cash transactions.

Inspector Green said of the victims: "It's the people who can least afford to lose the money."

He said the advice issued was not to store large quantities of cash at home and bank cash takings more frequently.

"Be vigilant. Consider your safety. Consider increasing the frequency of banking to make the business less of a desirable target" he said.

Those with information about the burglaries can contact West Mercia Police on 101. Those who have information regarding the theft of the safe can quote reference 22/10962/21.